UTSA Institute of Texan Cultures: Cultural legacy of Rio Grande

Guerra residence

Photo: In 1961, Walter Eugene George reactivated the Historic American Buildings Survey in Texas. The Manuel Guerra residence and store in Roma, Texas, is included in the survey. It was built by Heinrich Portscheller in 1884 on the town plaza in an adapted Florentine Renaissance style. Photo by Walter Eugene George Jr., HABS TEX-3146, July 1961. Courtesy of the Historic American Buildings Survey, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

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(Jan. 22, 2014) -- The UTSA Center for Urban and Regional Planning Research in the College of Architecture will sponsor an exhibit and symposium at the UTSA Institute of Texan Cultures, "Walter Eugene George and the Cultural Legacy of the Rio Grande," co-sponsored by the College of Architecture's Center for Cultural Sustainability and the Institute for Economic Development at the University of Texas at San Antonio.

>> Opening Feb. 1, the exhibit showcases 12 photos, a large hand-drawn map and a selection of Historic American Buildings Survey sketches from George's collection. A free symposium, Feb. 6, will include a discussion of the importance of a wide range of historic resources in the borderlands of Texas including the impact of George's work.

Walter Eugene George held the first San Antonio Conservation Society Endowed Professorship in Memory of Mary Ann Blocker Castleberry in the UTSA College of Architecture. During his career, he generated a body of work comprising some 500 drawings and 16,000 photos focusing on the Rio Grande corridor between Eagle Pass and Brownsville.

Culture is the sum of all those factors that define a way of life: the foods people eat, the songs they sing, the images they paint and the places they live. During his life, George captured the culture of the Rio Grande in photos and drawings of its architecture.

"An important part of the symposium, and key to the exhibit, is the appreciation of Eugene George," said Maggie Valentine, exhibit curator and UTSA professor of urban and regional planning and architecture. "His work as a preservation architect, scholar and teacher, taught by example how to recognize, measure, photograph, and restore the South Texas cultural legacy, consisting largely of vernacular buildings of the early ranching communities."

Valentine selected the specific areas of emphasis for the exhibit including San Antonio, Roma, Rio Grande City, Cuevitas and the Viejo Guerrero ghost town in Tamaulipas, Mexico. Viejo Guerrero was lost when the Falcon Dam was built in the 1950s. George reconstructed a map of the city before its inundation and returned to the site in 1983 and in 1995 when drought conditions exposed the ruins. A selection of the Viejo Guerrero drawings is featured.

At the Feb. 6 symposium, scholars and students will lend their perspectives on Eugene George's work, including Mario Sanchez, Texas Department of Transportation; Jesus de la Teja, Jerome H. and Catherine E. Supple Professor of Southwestern Studies, Texas State University; Steve Tillotson, AIA, Munoz & Company; and UTSA professors Richard Tangum, Maggie Valentine and Bill Dupont, FAIA. The symposium will conclude with a panel discussion, moderated by Gil Gonzalez, Director of the Rural Business Program in the UTSA Institute for Economic Development.

The Walter Eugene George exhibit will remain at the Institute of Texan Cultures through Feb. 28. For more information on the free Feb. 6 symposium and to register, call the UTSA College of Architecture at 210-458-3137. Check-in on Feb. 6 begins at 8:30 a.m. Symposium guests will enjoy free admission to the Walter Eugene George exhibit.

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The Institute of Texan Cultures is on the UTSA HemisFair Park Campus, 801 E. César E. Chávez Blvd., a short distance from the Alamo and the River Walk. Hours are 9 a.m.-5 p.m., Monday-Saturday; and 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. For more information, call 210-458-2300 or visit TexanCultures.com.