Local filmmaker, teacher recognized with Arts & Culture grant

Alex Ramirez discusses his work and the grant

Ramirez was honored with a grant from the San Antonio Arts & Culture Department

Mason Hickok, Editor-in-Chief

Alex Ramirez is a filmmaker that leads with humility and veneration, a true devotee of the arts. Much has changed in Ramirez’s life since last speaking with The Paisano. He screened a film at Luminaria last year, participated in concerted union efforts with SAY Sí, assumed a new role at the organization and was honored with an individual artist grant from the City of San Antonio’s Arts & Culture Department.

With everything happening, Ramirez is intentional about the presence of those around him.    

“I’m really just looking to the people around me for inspiration,” Ramirez described. “I’m looking to the workers around me, my family [and] my partner. [To] not only do right by them but try to do right by myself.”

While Ramirez is returning to his roots in filmmaking, there comes a palpable awareness of mental health. 

“That means getting back to work as an artist and as a filmmaker,” Ramirez said. “It means coming to work for the students every day and giving it a hundred percent. But, of course, thinking about my capacity [and] my own mental health. Just knowing that it is OK to stumble sometimes keeps me self-motivated.”

Ramirez and several teaching artists at SAY Sí have worked to have their union status certified and recognized for the last six months.

“The union has been a huge part of my life,” Ramirez shared. “When you come to work as an educator, you come to teach, not necessarily be an activist, even though this is a very progressive organization.” 

In early March, the union received voluntary recognition and won its case with the National Labor Relations Board. The dispute was not planned by either Ramirez or the other union members.

“When you get to work for a place that is as wholesome and important as this, you don’t expect to find yourself in a labor dispute, especially with an organization that touts itself as progressive and socially-conscious,” Ramirez said.

While the process continues, Ramirez finds comfort in his fellow staff members.

“Beyond the trauma, we really found camaraderie,” Ramirez explained. “When you cannot do it on your own, you call to the community; sometimes your community is the artist or the staff member right over.”

Recently, Ramirez was one of several local artists honored by the San Antonio Arts & Culture Department with an individual artist grant. This was the second grant from the city that Ramirez had received.

“I have always been a fan of many of the artists who were chosen as grantees,” Ramirez said.

For Ramirez, there is a hope that San Antonio can evolve into even more of an arts-centric city. 

“I see artists in San Antonio and think about the lifeblood that they bring to the culture of this city,” Ramirez said. “My kind of crazy dream is to see San Antonio become a Paris of the 20s, like an art mecca. That’s what being in this class of artists reminds me of.”

Ramirez screened his most recent short film, “A Life in Technicolor,” during Luminaria last November. The film follows a film lover who, amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, recreates her favorite movies in her apartment as a means to escape the outside world. Ramirez joked that this was his “movie about movies.” 

“I think every filmmaker, at least once, makes a movie about movies,” Ramirez explained. “This was kind of my attempt to do that.” 

In the production stage of the film, Ramirez found himself mirroring the film’s character by retreating into the world of cinema. 

“I was really retreating into a lot of old cinema that I had not seen,” Ramirez said. “Also, kind of using the practicality of films that were [in] the public domain. It was a beautifully cathartic process, having to watch all [of] those films again [and] really getting the aesthetic down that I wanted to go for.” 

As Ramirez continues to exist as a beacon for wisdom and education — he was recently named Media Arts Director at SAY Sí — there is a sense of eagerness to cultivate from the community of artists around him. 

“I can feel in my own bones that the mission, for me, has gotten stronger,” Ramirez said. “That mission is the kids, the staff and being that paradigm of advocating for yourself.”