Through June 27: Institute of Texan Cultures 'Small Town Texas' photo exhibit

Pearsall

Pearsall, Texas
(Photo by Ricardo Romo)

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(June 10, 2010)--The Institute of Texan Cultures will present "Small Town Texas," an exhibit of photographs by UTSA President Ricardo Romo, through Sunday, June 27. Visitors will have the opportunity to take in the exhibit this weekend (June 11-13) during the 39th annual Texas Folklife Festival.

Romo shot the photo essay on a fading way of life over 15 months and accumulated some 2,000 images on weekend trips to Texas small towns. As an historian and photographer, he spent time in the Texas communities and documented his travels with stories and photos. The exhibit includes 37 photographs from communities including Batesville, Castroville, Crystal City, Cuero, Devine, Floresville, Gonzales, Kingsbury, Marfa, Nixon, Pearsall, Pryor and Yoakum.

During an undergraduate college trip to London, Romo bought a camera and took pictures of the places he visited. In graduate school, the camera became a bigger part of his life as he set out to document the barrios of East Los Angeles. The bakeries, bridges, people and events were elements that contributed to the cultural makeup of the community.

Romo made the effort to visit different Texas small towns, not just to take photographs, but also to talk to community members. In an interview recorded for the exhibit, he recounts a trip to Devine, Texas. He stopped at a flea market, met the owners, a couple in their 70s, and joined them for lunch. "You make friends," he said.

"Small-town Texas is bigger than I thought," Romo said. "Where did their names come from? What were they like in their heyday? Our small towns are a unique treasure and an important part of Texas history. They are part of oil discoveries and mineral wealth. They supplied the cattle drives. Farms brought their cotton and produce to the small-town railheads. Before it changes too much, I'm interested in capturing what's there."

"Small Town Texas" also includes a unique educational component. The Institute of Texan Cultures partnered with the Beeville Independent School District. Romo, along with educators from the institute, spent time with 33 gifted and talented sixth-graders, teaching them how to capture a moment in their town's history through photography, video and oral history.

"This is an opportunity to think about your own small town," said Romo. "Ask questions about your community and think about how you connect."

"Small Town Texas" was curated by Arturo Almeida, art specialist and curator of the UTSA Art Collection. The Institute of Texan Cultures is on the UTSA HemisFair Park Campus, 801 E. Durango Blvd., a short distance from the Alamo and the River Walk. The museum was recently accepted into the Smithsonian Affiliations program.

>> Texas Folklife Festival hours are 5-11 p.m., Friday, June 11; 11 a.m.-11 p.m., Saturday, June 12; and noon-7 p.m., Sunday, June 13. "Small Town Texas" is included in admission to the festival.

>> Regular Institute of Texan Cultures hours are 9 a.m.-5 p.m., Monday-Saturday; noon-5 p.m. Sunday. Admission is $8 for adults (ages 12-64); $7 for seniors (ages 65+); $6 for children (ages 3-11); free with membership, UTSA or Alamo Colleges identification.

The Institute of Texan Cultures is an agency of the UTSA Office of the Vice President for Community Services. The mission of the institute is to engage lifelong learners in the understanding and celebration of Texas cultural heritage. Located on the UTSA HemisFair Park Campus in downtown San Antonio, the 182,000-square-foot complex features 65,000 square feet of exhibits that tell the stories of Texans. The institute develops resources for educators and lifelong learners on cultural heritage and strives to develop a vibrant culture in the arts and humanities that will expand the community's awareness and appreciation of Texas through exhibits, programs and special events.

For more information, call 210-458-2300 or visit the Institute of Texan Cultures Web site.