Three pillars stand alone on a dirt pile off of Interstate 35 and Zarzamora Street on the South Side of San Antonio, enclosed by fencing that circles the premises. Soon, this predominantly vacant region will be home to a vibrant and enormous public art sculpture produced by Snake Hawk Press owner, Cruz Ortiz.
Ortiz’s project called “Dream Song Tower” came to fruition through District 4 Councilman Rey Saldaña. Because of an underground drainage channel, the ground reserved for the sculpture is unsuitable for commercial buildings.
“You have Olive Garden. You have everything in the world there, the Mama Margie’s is my favorite,” Ortiz said with a smile and quick chuckle. “But apparently, in that corner, you can’t really build on that part because there is an underground channel for drainage.”
Once Saldaña decided that art was the direction he wanted to head into, the Councilman got into contact with Ortiz, the two having met previously through projects of Ortiz’s in Bexar County.
“He wanted to do public art and that’s when he called me and said, ‘Hey, I have this cool idea,’ and I said, ‘Oh, yeah? I have a cool idea, too.’”
The idea that Ortiz referred to is what will soon make its way to the South Side. “Dream Song Tower,” a colossal sculpture that draws its inspiration from folklore and myth with origins in San Antonio’s South Side.
“Whether it’s parents or real-life stuff like the Ghost Tracks or the Dancers at El Camaroncito, all these amazing stories that I think really exist in San Antonio and originate from the South Side,” Ortiz said.
Ortiz spoke about other folklore tales that will be referenced in “Dream Song Tower” such as Lechuza, Mal de Ojo and the Donkey Lady Bridge.
While Ortiz was not able to provide any preview images of the art piece at the time, his facial expression showed genuine excitement for what is to come while he scrolled through his phone’s camera roll to view the concepts.
“We’re about to do a big roll out as far as marketing stuff, what people can see,” Ortiz said before revealing the massive proportions of the sculpture. “I can tell you that it is 60 feet tall. This thing is enormous. It is being fabricated in Houston right now.”
Soon, the folklore-inspired piece will be transferred from Houston to San Antonio to begin construction.
“We’re supposed to install next week. Three 18-wheelers bringing this monster through I-10… so, yeah. It should be interesting,” Ortiz said. “They are just going to plot it in and put everything together.”
In the process of creating the sculpture, Ortiz has been able to work with Flying Carpet Creative, engineering artists based in Houston that have produced megastructures all over the world. Ortiz says that collaborating with other artists is a part of the profession that he learned to enjoy through his earlier days at UTSA training to be a printmaker.
“When you’re going through the printmaking regiment, one of the main things is learning to collaborate with people,” Ortiz said. “You are essentially a workhorse for the artist. You are trying to make sure there is an open communication to present their work.”
Collaboration is still crucial to Ortiz’s art, evident by the inception of Snake Hawk Press, his production studio located on 144 Zapata St. There, Ortiz works with other artists such as Gaby Flores, his lead graphic designer who described him as “super wonderful” to work with.
“Cruz is just that nice person where people just give him stuff or at least attempted to sell him some things instead of just throwing them out,” Flores said in regards to the 1920s letterpress machines that are utilized in Snake Hawk Press’ studio. “He’s crazy fast when it comes to letterpress or screen-printing because he’s been doing it for 20 more years than I have.”
Ortiz’s craftsmanship includes printmaking, drawing and now sculpting, but it was painting that got the artist his start as a well as a late friend of his, Manuel Castillo.
“We started up the San Anto Cultural Arts mural program. Now, we’re over, like, 50 murals all over San Antonio,” Ortiz said before reflecting on the journey that he took with Castillo.
“I was literally, like, 22 years old. A snotty, punk rock kid who just wanted to paint cool stuff. Me and Manny just figured it out. There’s always been that need on my part that art could be interjected into a community and create sustaining change.”
Ortiz made it clear that bringing positive change to communities is part of what fuels his passion for art, and he has had the pleasure of seeing his creations achieve just that.
“It is almost a given that if we do a project in a community that is art, there will definitely be a million-fold positive changes in that community,” Ortiz said. “Whether it is economic development or cultural development, you see immediate change.”
Regarding the potential change that “Dream Song Tower” can bring to the South Side, Ortiz said that he is unsure of how the public will respond, but that comes with the territory of being an artist.
“There is a point where I create something and then I leave it. The work has to behave on its own,” Ortiz said. “So, I don’t know. We will see.”
However, Ortiz remains excited for the project to finally come to life.
“You will see the effects later. I guarantee that with this art piece going up, that whole intersection is going to blow up,” Ortiz said with a grin from ear-to-ear. “It is going to be neat. I just worry that Starbucks is going to want to serve coffee out of it.”
On Friday Nov. 17, Ortiz gave the public its first glimpse at “Dream Song Tower” through a series of images showing off the sculpture in its current state in Houston. The piece can be previewed on Ortiz’s Instagram account, @cruzortizart, and will find its new home on the South Side of San Antonio very soon.