Graffiti art’s journey from abomination to appreciation

The San Antonio Street Art Initiative sheds light on overlooked medium

Kylar Royer, Contributing Writer

In the past, graffiti was a criminalized activity that was often ignored as a genuine art style; however, the more society has tried to force graffiti out of its cities, artists and advocates have fought hard to reinvent the art medium. Graffiti has transitioned into street art and has begun turning the heads of those who once shunned the craft. Street art has become a form of self-expression and identity, creating jobs and uplifting community spirits. 

The San Antonio Street Art Initiative (SASAI) has embraced this new street art culture by supporting many local and upcoming artists. The independent nonprofit — founded and run by artists — focuses on providing accessible career development opportunities to experienced and beginner artists. 

The street art initiative is just shy of four years old, but has produced over 60 public art murals and has participated in advocating for over 40 artists in the San Antonio community. By industry standards, this is unparalleled. The SASAI has been working to create the “Largest Outdoor Gallery” in Texas, located under I-35 on the corner of Quincy and St. Mary’s Street. 

Through extensive annual planning, they bring artists together to paint new murals in a designated area, with an effort to connect each yearly phase. 

Most individuals who see these large murals around town assume that the SASAI has a substantial staff of 20 to 30 people, but there are only three board members. The daily team consists of the president and founder, Shek Vega, and project manager, Burgundy Woods. 

Woods has had a passion for the arts from a young age, leading to her yearning for involvement in the industry. Working with the SASAI has been the highlight of her career, despite working for famous record labels (Virgin, Interscope, Capital Records and EMI Music) and as a trend forecaster, fashion curator and host for the online show “MySpace in Beverly Hills.” 

Woods explains, “These days I am honing my skills with SASAI and will get back to combining all my creative skills to one showcase when the time is right.” 

Woods especially loves that the projects they take on truly benefit the artists. 

The other wonderful part of our job is that we truly help others, especially the artists,” Woods said. “We are able to provide job placement and career development in a field that typically does not have these types of support systems in place.”

Being able to find the balance between client satisfaction and ensuring the integrity of the artist’s aesthetic can be the most challenging aspect of the job. Often when it’s time for the design process, clients will send back corrections and edits, redesigning the mural. When the design comes back, it no longer feels like the artist’s aesthetic. 

“A lot of the time, the people sending back redesign ‘suggestions’ have no art education or experience too, so it can be confusing and frustrating, to say the least,” Woods described. 

Despite these challenges, so many within the San Antonio community love SASAI’s work and ask that the artists just paint. 

Excitingly enough, the completion of their latest project can be found on campus in the Student Union, featuring a street art mural from the duo, Los Otros. This large-scale Texas mural highlights UTSA’s traditions, so next time you are visiting the Student Union throw your birds up. 

The San Antonio Street Art Initiative program not only makes our neighborhoods beautiful but also brings in the talent of all artists, giving them the platform they need to succeed in their careers. Looking to get connected? Visit and fill out their form to start working with them on their following upcoming projects.