Magazine article The Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education

Picasso, Pride and a Deeper Purpose

Magazine article The Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education

Picasso, Pride and a Deeper Purpose

Article excerpt

Born and raised in San Antonio's South Side, Sylvia Sutton is fiercely proud of her roots even though the area has had a troubled reputation, a low socioeconomic ranking and a high dropout rate. She stayed in the community when she became a teacher and, later, a principal, while raising her family there.

"I'm a Carvajal," she says. "We've been here for generations."

Her pride started an interest in genealogy - not only to research her family but to help connect other families to the beauty, fortitude and history of the surrounding vicinity. "You have to know where you're from and who you are to know where you're going," says Sutton. "I want my people to know they are special."

Sutton became a certified genealogist and served on the National/International Spanish Task Force of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) in Washington, D.C., she says. Her research took her to Spain numerous times, where she delved into the life of Bernardo de Gálvez, the Spanish general who actually had a stake in San Antonio, where the new Texas A&M University-San Antonio (TAMUSA) campus was inaugurated last year.

While in Spain, Sutton became friends with Javier Medina of Spain and Guy Rondou from Belgium. Owners of the Remedios Medina Collection, an expansive group of works by Picasso, they at one point spoke of how they wanted to bring an exhibit to Texas - and had in mind Dallas or Austin.

"As usual," Sutton says. "Then I thought, why not here? Why not the South Side?"

The thought would not leave her. Sutton felt the urgency to make it happen. Her own love of art had come from her father, who "had art in his soul," and an artistic mother. Sutton had the opportunity to travel to Florence and other locales to study art.

As a mother of a Texas A&M University student, she embraced academia, saw the power of exposure to the arts, knew TAMUSA was about to be inaugurated - and that her community needed this boost.

"It became my mission," she says. "I think I was a good daughter. I was a good professional. I was a good mother and a good wife. And now I'm entering another season of my life and I thought, "What can I do for my people? Many of them will live their lives and never see a Picasso or a professional work of art. Why not have Picasso come to them?"

Dr. María Hernández Ferner, president of TAMUSA, saw Sutton's vision. "There was a connection made with the owners," says Ferner. "Sylvia told them, ? know a university where you should hold it.'"

It took many negotiation skills Sutton did not realize she had, yet she convinced them to bring an exhibit to San Antonio, and, more specifically, to Texas A&M University-San Antonio, the only four-year university in the area.

"We had the good luck of meeting with Sylvia, and with her passion, we got this going quickly," explains Medina. "Quickly" meant a year of negotiating, planning, crating the art and transporting it. It took the effort of many, in Spain and in Texas.

"It did cost money to bring it," explains Ferrier. She spoke to Chancellor John Sharp of the Texas A&M University System. "When I told him about the vision for the school and community, he simply asked, 'What do you need, Maria?' He helped make it happen for us."

Things started to flow and fall in place, says Sutton. Everyone she asked for help stepped up to do so. She believed the community would benefit greatly. "We had a deeper purpose and had to make it happen."

In March 2012, the Picasso, Amigos & Contemporáneos Exhibit opened in the halls of TAMUSA. And the South Side community was on the map because of Picasso - and much more.

The Exhibit

The "Picasso, Amigos & Contemporáneos" exhibit was the first of its kind at the new university campus, which broke ground in August 2011. And it was the first time this selection of 97 works of art by Picasso and "friends" had left Spain to be exhibited in the United States. …

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