by Morgan Montalvo
Fredericksburg Road has long been a major part of San Antonio's commercial scene but, as the city grows, its early history as part of the Old Spanish Trail is fast fading.
Local entrepreneur Larry Lopez wants to change that - in a big way, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.
Lopez, who grew up and attended school in the Fredericksburg Road area, is CEO of Bubble Bath Car Wash and has commissioned muralists with the San Anto Cultural Arts non-profit to research and depict the present Near Northside boulevard's centuries of history on a 120-foot expanse of his company's new location just outside Balcones Heights.
He says the three-panel mural will communicate not only his pride in the busy thoroughfare, but his passion for its history - and mystery.
"We can't forget that this is just not a paved pathway. This is a hundreds and hundreds of years-old trail of people who have come and gone, and come and gone," Lopez says, "and you've just got to wonder, where they were going, and where were they coming from, and what were they going to do."
Lopez says after seeing some of the nearly 60 murals completed by San Anto artists, he was sure he had found "the right people to capture that, what we were trying to do to honor that street."
Lead artist Rudy Herrera says his team is researching every element considered for inclusion in the finished rendering, which starts with the story of the corridor as a pre-history wildlife trail.
"Animals took that first, and then humans adopted that and we continued to build on it," says Herrera, who also incorporates in the design symbolism from the road's meandering, serpentine path."
Something that I used to signify the past, a marker of the past, was the snake. So that snake is carried throughout the piece," he says.
Also prominent in the finished mural, Herrera says, will be representations of early inhabitants of the area.
"Things that are important happening now in San Antonio, they go back to the indigenous people," says Herrera. "That's a part of history I feel that maybe not a lot of us know about."
The team's conceptual drawings feature a handoff from native peoples to explorers, settlers, merchants, recent immigrants and conclude with a combined tech-industrial-research theme that represents the Medical Center, cyber startups and higher education.
"I always try to leave some kind of hopeful element in my pieces," says Herrera, who also is a mechanical engineering student.S
an Anto Cultural Arts director Ben Tremillo says neighborhood input drives his organization's final products, "so we want to hear from the community, and the artists are responsible for taking those ideas and visualizing them."
The community has a lot of different ideas about this corridor, about the history of Fredericksburg Road.
"They have a lot of knowledge, personal knowledge," Tremillo says. "We wanted the community to tell us what they knew about the Old Spanish Trail, what they knew about the Fredicksburg Corridor."
Tremillo says with the design finalized following a series of community meetings over the past month, work on the project now moves to the site: Bubble Bath Car Wash's new location in the 3900 block of Fredericksburg Rd. adjacent to Balcones Heights.
He says once the team of artists line-draws the basic elements, painting will begin and the public will be welcome to assist, brushes in hand, as the project approaches its early spring completion and unveiling.
Lopez says the finished mural will encourage reflection and provide inspiration.
"We have to look into the future as we do into the past," Lopez says. "Fredericksburg Road for hundreds of more years will be carrying people, and will always be a major thoroughfare for people coming and going. And there will always be commerce here."
PHOTO: Artists from San Anto Cultural Arts discuss digitized elements of a 120-ft mural they will paint on the side of The Bubble Bath Car Wash location in the 3900 block of Fredericksburg Road. Bubble Bath CEO Larry Lopez commissioned the artwork to tell the story of Fredericksburg Road's importance as a commercial thorofare and earlier use by indigenous peoples, explorers and settlers as part of the Old Spanish Trail. Photo by Morgan Montalvo