Artist Feature: Adriana M. Garcia

San Antonio artist portrays culture through murals and children’s books


Portrait of Adriana M. Garcia. Courtesy of Adriana M. Garcia.

Isabella McGovern, Assistant Magazine Editor

Born and raised within an artistic family on the Westside of San Antonio, Adriana M. Garcia has always loved to draw. Her uncle, Rodolfo “Diamond” Garcia, was a painter and one of the founding members of the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center. Rodolfo Garcia, Adriana’s father and their brothers would check out the paintings Rodolfo created to have discussions and critiques on them. She appreciates her family’s artistic capabilities and recalls when her dad and his brothers would share a journal of ideas and sketches. She also has memories of going to her grandfather’s house and passing by the murals on Hamilton St. As a child, Garcia thought the murals were inspiring because they depicted a beautiful expression of Mexican culture, which at the time, was not shown everywhere. 

In school, Garcia did well in all her classes, but her passion was for art. She had the support of her parents, especially her mother, to pursue art in college. Garcia attended Carnegie Mellon School of Art in Pittsburgh, Pa. and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in fine arts in 1999. 

After graduation, Garcia enrolled in Northwest Vista College to learn more about computers and gain new skills. 

After Northwest Vista College, Garcia worked as a graphic designer for independent companies and started volunteering to paint murals at local arts centers. She connected herself with non-profits to offer her services, whether for graphic design or other artistic styles. 

Garcia has done many other projects, from paintings and drawing to paper works and set designs. Her most recent works are the San Pedro Creek Culture Park mural, the Northwest Vista College mural and her illustrations in children’s books.

Adriana M. Garcia. “De Todos Caminos Somos Todos Uno,” Mural painting. Photo by Al Rendon. Courtesy of Adriana M. Garcia.

At San Pedro Creek Culture Park, located in Downtown San Antonio, is a mural done by Garcia titled “De Todos Caminos Somos Todos Uno,” “From All Roads, We Are All One” in English. It was created around the Tricentennial of San Antonio in 2018. Garcia wanted to make sure indigenous people of San Antonio were represented in the mural, and that it tells the story and timeline of San Pedro Creek. From the outer parts of the mural, it depicts Mother and Father spirits telling the story of life and death. There is indigenous culture on the left and settlers on the right of the mural. On the left side, the sun is setting which is a metaphor for the way of life and how the indigenous’ lives would be forever changed. In the middle of the mural, it shows the present-day with children playing in the creek and finally, all around the mural are paintings of the flowers along the creek.

The Northwest Vista College mural Garcia worked on is called “Changing the World.” She created this mural alongside Dr. Sandra Garza and her fall 2018 and spring 2019 Mexican American Fine Arts Appreciation students and hosted meetings to discuss the history of education in San Antonio. They wanted the mural to highlight the student walkout in 1968 for demands of equity in the classroom. They also wanted to emphasize everyone’s ability to receive an education, all thanks to our elders, who paved the way and helped us gain access to education. In the center of the mural, it showcases profiles of students who went to the campus. It symbolizes the survival, support and political activism that many students at Northwest Vista College show. 

Adriana M. Garcia. “Changing the World.” Mural painting. Courtesy of Adriana M. Garcia.

“Once you create something, it’s no longer yours,” said Garcia. “It’s out there for everybody to impart what they are taking from it and what they feel from it and what the viewer resonates with, [which] is really important and I love hearing what people take away from the art they see.”

Finally, Garcia created artwork for two children’s books written by her friend, Xelena González. For their first book, “All Around Us,” they got together in 2017 and applied for a block grant to be able to present it to the community while Garcia finished the illustrations. The story is about a little girl talking to her grandfather about circles that are all around us, whether metaphorical or literal. The main point is that these circles represent taking care of our Earth, each other and the circle of life.  

“I feel like it’s a natural progression from working on murals to books,” said Garcia. “[With] murals, you are creating a big composition and it’s very narrative, so with children’s books, it’s an extension from that; it’s being narrative but in book format.” 

Once Garcia and González finished and presented their book to the community, they received nothing but praise. They then took it to a publisher, Cinco Puntos Press, and were granted the opportunity to publish their book. They won three awards: The Pura Belpré Illustrator Award, the American Indian Youth Literature Award and the Tomas Rivera American Children’s Book Award. 

The other book, “Where Wonder Grows,” is about a grandmother and her granddaughters discussing rocks on the surface of the Earth. She tells them where these rocks come from, how to be in the world and that rocks are reminders of how powerful we are no matter how small we are. 

Garcia painting her vibrant mural. Photo by Christopher Cantoya. Courtesy of Adriana M. Garcia.

Garcia and González are working on another book that is set to come out in 2024, and Garcia will also illustrate another book called “The Turquoise Room” by Monica Brown coming out this Sept. 

Currently, Garcia is working on a project using augmented reality technology (AR) with a grant from Luminaria. She is also working with the city of San Antonio to create design enhancements for the new World Heritage Building to be built by Mission Library. 

As for her artwork, Garcia will be part of the city’s art exhibition called “Status of Women,” for which Garcia was requested to paint a portrait of Rosie Castro and Emma Tenayuca.

The exhibition will run from March 22 through Nov. 18, 2022. The opening reception will be on Tuesday, March 22 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at Culture Commons Gallery.