SAN ANTONIO -- A west-side women's group just did something that hasn't been done in 150 years here, and they are throwing a party on Saturday morning to celebrate.
The group is MujerArtes, and it is a project of the Esperanza Peace and Justice Center.
Project leaders say their new work and exhibit space at the corner of South Colorado and Guadalupe streets is the first commercial building made of compressed earth, or adobe bricks, to be approved by the city since a prohibition was passed many years ago.
“In the 1850s, the owners of the lumber mills, with the city government, outlawed adobe in San Antonio, and there have been no commercial buildings built in SA since the 1850s. This is the first one," volunteer Amy Kastely said.
She said when city officials initially objected to the use of adobe, project planners argued that the local Spanish Governors’ Palace is made of earth and the building has survived the test of time.
“It is a material that is fireproof. It is safe. It's just a wonderful, wonderful material, and we're so glad the city government had an open mind and an open heart and they've permitted this, and people are working on changes that will allow this kind of material to be used all over San Antonio,” Kastely said.
The new building will house the 21-year-old artists’ cooperative, where women are both teachers and students, telling the stories of their lives thru clay creations.
The women who helped design and build the new work space and gallery spent Friday racing to get ready for the big celebration.
Working to mix a big vat of lime wash for an outdoor mural adorning the west wall, adobe architect Jessica Rocca said: “It's made out of lime and different kinds of sands and aggregates and cactus juice.
We use a lot of cactus juice as a binder. It is our cultural heritage from thousands of years ago that was used all over Latin America, not only for food, but for building purposes.”
Rocca said the all-natural materials used are local, not expensive and better because they allow the building to breathe.
“It's a good material because it's breathable, so it helps to keep a comfort zone inside with the temperature and it is also soundproof. It is bulletproof. It is bugproof and it's dirt! It's everywhere, so we are not killing any trees,” Rocca said.
Glass bottles embedded in 16-inch walls provide natural light for the clay art of women who are building a better future by bringing the past back to life.
Contributing artist Patricia de la Garza said: “What I love about it is we were able to play with a huge canvas, an empty canvas, and be able to figure out what we want to express.”
Putting the finishing touches on a clay mural, de la Garza laughed and said:“We were free to do whatever we wanted to do, and that was fun!”
Expressing hope and optimism for the new building, de la Garza said: “It's not going to be over. This is just the start, and we are going up from here. I don't know where we are going, but we are going in a good, good, good way."
Gina, an artist who said she came to the project years ago, said working with the cooperative has been a life saver.
"This place has definitely changed my life. Finally I have a place to come where I can express myself and help others as they have helped me learn different techniques, not only here with clay, but in life,” Gina said.
Kastely said Saturday’s event will be a chance for many more people to learn these important lessons.
“We'll have an exhibit of how this material is made and they'll get to see it, ask questions, sing some songs, eat some food and celebrate what is just a dream come true. And then take the dream into the future,” Kastely said.
The party is Saturday from 10 a.m. to noon at 816 South Colorado, and everyone is invited.
MujerArtes is a project of the Esperanza Peace and Justice Center, on the web at: http://esperanzacenter.org/esperanza-projects/mujerartes-womens-pottery-collective/
The company that builds the machine that makes the blocks is https://aectearthblock.com/
The company that helped make the blocks is http://earthblockinternational.com/