Jennifer Khoshbin’s art can be found across downtown San Antonio.
For a time, if you were driving on North Flores Street, one of the main arteries in Alta Vista, you’d see illuminated marquee signs, which displayed messages from local wordsmiths and poets, who collaborated with Khoshbin on the series.
In Southtown, at the intersection of Pereida and South Alamo streets, her installation of a public seating area reminds us to “PAUSE” and take in the moment.
In Hemisfair's Yanaguana Garden near The Magic Theatre, a French theatre model-inspired backdrop she created encourages imaginative storytelling.
Most recently, Khoshbin completed a mural commissioned by the San Antonio Tricentennial Commission she dubbed “Interwoven” in the heart of downtown at the intersection of East Houston and Navarro streets.
“Interwoven” depicts five refugee and immigrant women who have come to call San Antonio home. The location was perfect to convey a raw and true image of a lesser known San Antonio community at one of the busiest intersections downtown.
“I wanted to add some commentary on who we are as a city,” Khoshbin said. “My goal was to express support and fellowship to those different cultures that now reside (here) and are part of the larger San Antonio community, especially those that might not have a powerful presence or voice in the community.”
When the commission and the city of San Antonio awarded the grant to Khoshbin, one of 29 local artists and organizations selected to depict the city’s diverse culture, she had just finished a two-year project titled “Word on the Street” at Artpace, that had been a collaborative effort with women in a sewing circle at the Center for Refugee Services on the northwest side and through Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES). She wanted to continue her relationship with the women she had met and had them in mind when she was thinking of a subject for the mural.
When you first come across the mural, the first thing that draws you in are the many hues of blue—the sea blue of the background; the darker blues of the hijabs two of the women wear, of the jeans of another; the blues and greens of the agave plants—all meant to catch your eye up close and from a distance. Khoshbin’s goal was to invite as many people as possible to view the mural, so she wanted the piece to be bold and exciting.
Among the shades of blues are five women seamstresses representing Afghan, Turkey, Honduran, Republic of Congo and Haiti, who Khoshbin grew close to from her time at the refugee center. The portraits do not hold deep detail of facial features and are done in a contemporary pop style because some of the women wanted to remain anonymous. They sit upon and around tree stumps that have new foliage, fresh leaves and twigs that represent new growth and new life. Similar foliage can be found on their attire, hinting at new growth within themselves.
Below the group is a colorful quilted pattern inspired by the activity that brought them together, patterns from early American quilts are “interwoven” with traditional patterns from the countries the seamstresses are from. Khoshbin’s relationship with the seamstresses will continue on through a new project: The women are getting together to embroider a series of outdoor nylon flags they plan to hang around the city.
“There’s a lot of different nationalities moving into San Antonio but I don’t think we think of San Antonio in that aspect,” Khoshbin said. “So I think it’s a great opportunity to remind people of the broader community here in our city.”
Originally from Philadelphia, Khoshbin comes from a highly artistic family—her sister is a new media artist in New York City, her brother is an art curator who lives here and in New York, and her mother is a ceramicist. Khoshbin’s art journey began when she studied Fine Arts and Sociology at the University of Texas, Austin, and the University of Kentucky. Khoshbin's personal style is focused around intimate literature-based art through different mediums. It wasn’t until the last couple of years that her medium shifted to a broader scale of public work.
"Interwoven" will be on display at East Houston and Navarro streets indefinitely.
The basement at 229 E. Houston St. did not stay quiet for long.
The old Last Word location will become Jet-Setter, a full bar that will offer cocktails from across the globe that's being opened by Benjamin Krick, former bar manager at Juniper Tar, and Lucas Bradbury of Bok Choy and Earth Burger.
Krick is working toward an April 1 opening.
Hours will be 4 p.m.-2 a.m. daily; happy hour 4-7 p.m. daily.
Jet-Setter will offer an array of cocktails from all over the world that will be served with authentic ingredients and glassware from the countries of origin.
The space, which was once had a dark, speakeasy ambience with portraits of famed literary authors, has been revitalized through color schemes of blue, and cognac and vintage travel posters that now line the walls.
Before Juniper Tar closed its doors last year, Krick purchased a license from the Miracle Pop-Up Bar franchise, a concept founded in 2014 in the East Village neighborhood of New York. With the license, participating bars get a crash course in running a Christmas-themed bar that includes recipes for 12 cocktails, printed menus featuring those cocktails' recipes, playlists, and social media-ready professional drink photos for promo purposes. Only about 80 bars around the world have the opportunity to host the Miracle Pop-Up bar and Krick was elated to bring the concept to San Antonio over the holidays. But he never found a place to put the pop up. At one point, he was eyeing historic home at 1506 E. Houston St., but couldn't get the zoning converted on time.
Krick also looked at the former Last Word spot next to Bohanan's Prime Steaks and Seafood, which had been taken over by the restaurant's nonprofit, Houston Street Charities. He asked if the nonprofit could rent the space for the pop-up. Unfortunately for him, the charity was gearing up for the San Antonio Cocktail Conference, and told him the spot was actually for lease. The conversation turned into a full-fledged opportunity to create something more permanent.
“I kind of just fell into entrepreneurship,” Krick said.
Right after the cocktail conference ended in late January, Krick moved in and immediately started construction.
Krick emphasized he wanted Jet-Setter to raise the bar on bar culture in San Antonio. He invested in staff education and training in regards to the cocktails of other cultures. With the help of his partner Bradbury, he will apply composting, recycling and zero waste policies, and hopes other establishments on Houston Street, and other bars, will follow suit.
The bar and tables are custom-made, and will have compartments for patrons to place phones, if they chose. Customers can get their shoes shined for free during happy hour.
Though Jet-Setter has been Krick’s primary focus so close to opening date, he's also set to open Pastiche, a soigné cocktail lounge with an old-world European feel he plans to open later this spring in the house on East Houston Street, where the pop-up was supposed to go.
The lobby of the 1912 Burns building on East Houston Street is still. Modern furniture pay homage to the building’s past. The deep low hum of a psychedelic band playing on a record player from Traveler Barbershop is just loud enough to drown out the faint traditional lobby music. Through the glass window, you will catch a glimpse of Chuck Holdridge in his zone, blade or buzzer in hand, surrounded by an array of hair care products and whiskey selections.
Holdridge, 41, is a native San Antonian who, like everyone else, has had brushes with fate and struggled with aspirations. Hairstyling, he said, first piqued his interest when he was a high school student at Clark and he’d accompany his girlfriend to a salon that had an apprenticeship program allowing its participants to offer $10 haircuts. He described the vibe as “rock n’ roll.”
Despite the sparked interest and a fear of an office environment job, Holdridge went to college at Texas State University where he pursued a degree in business. However, he soon realized that the idea of working in the beauty industry was always in the background of his mind.
“We would talk about what businesses did in a booming economy and what businesses did in a lousy economy,” Holdridge explained. “They talked about different industries such as the automobile industry, the manufacturing—this and that—to show how the industries respond during different economic times. And then there was the beauty industry that just kept going. No matter what.”
Still, after college, Holdridge joined the United States Army Reserve in 1998 to serve his country and was deployed to Afghanistan. It wasn’t until his second deployment, some years later, that he realized that it was time to follow the signs. When he returned from his second deployment, he told his wife he was going to enroll in beauty school and she was very supportive. In the summer of 2007, while still active military, Holdridge began his journey at the Aveda Institute that was located at the Pearl. He went from never holding a brush before to working for a salon the Aveda company had owned.
“It’s actually the salon I used to go with my high school girlfriend where she would get her hair cut at,” Holdridge laughed. “I was like, ‘Wow this came full circle’.”
After four deployments under his belt and almost two decades in the Army Reserve, Holdridge continued through with his education and earned a management position, working throughout other Aveda salons. But he didn’t like the administrative and academic rules of compliance so he absorbed as much as he could until he felt like it was time to do his own thing.
“And about that time, I stopped doing hair behind a chair—I had started doing hair at the house—for like beer money, like kind of a side hustle,” Holdridge said. “It was mostly guys, friends of mine, then friends of friends, coworkers of my wife. Most nights I was doing a cut or two in the living room, drinking beer, hanging out. It was really fun and I was like ‘I really like this,’” Holdridge explained. “This is different from being in a salon. It was the barber world. I just enjoyed it. I always felt like I never fully understood women’s hair. And what women wanted with their hair. My customers loved it but things like blowouts and updos and styling I always felt really insecure about. As I was transitioning more to men’s hair, I was like I feel really good about this. This is what I like—I felt more comfortable in that environment and so I got my barber license.”
After searching unsuccessfully for a place to set up shop, Holdridge worried he wasn’t going to find a barbershop he could see himself in. He had already quit his job as a hairdresser at Aveda and didn’t want to disappoint his wife.
Then, chance took over. Holdridge reconnected with an old friend, Mario Guajardo, when he needed shirts made. Guajardo owns a company, Richter Goods, which operates out of the old Broadway News building on Broadway and Appler Street, along with other businesses run out of trailers such as Bexar Goods, Mila Coffee and Rise Up.
That same week, Holdridge, a fan of vintage trailers himself, was cruising through Craigslist when he came across an Airstream that was once a hair salon in Austin. Everything began falling into place. He didn’t have to work at someone else’s barbershop. He could open his own. With Guajardo’s permission to park his trailer in the lot, Holdridge opened Traveler Barbershop in November of 2016. It took off faster than he’d imagined.
Holdridge says his time in the military gave him skills that transitioned well into a small business practice mindset. Finding what motivates those around him positions Holdridge to be a better manager and people person. What Holdridge loved about the military was the mentorship; being put in situations you’re not prepared for; having the opportunity and guidance to nail down situations where, in many work environments, you’d be let go for messing up. In the military, you don’t always get to choose your team but it’s everyone’s job to motivate each other and make sure the task gets done, he said.
After a couple of years learning how to manage a growing business and with a support system around him, business was bursting at the seams and a unique opportunity came about for Traveler Barbershop.
David Adelman, the local developer behind AREA Real Estate, approached Holdridge with the idea of setting up a brick and mortar location in the heart of downtown San Antonio inside the Burns building at 401 E. Houston St., but Holdridge was reluctant because of customer parking until he realized, compared to other major cities, downtown San Antonio isn't hard to navigate, he said.
Apart from parking challenges, Holdridge was also thinking bigger. He disclosed that, in fact, the most challenging thing he experienced was everywhere but downtown. After opening Traveler Barbershop Airstream on Broadway three years ago, he had been on the hunt for a brick-and-mortar location for a couple of years. Holdridge had been chasing real estate properties in hopes of a location that could possibly house 10 chairs. After months of miscommunication, disappearing agents and leads that lead nowhere, Adelman made Holdridge’s move easy and he realized that he didn’t need some extravagantly big space after all.
"It's funny, working downtown and moving downtown. I feel like you meet a tremendous amount of people down here who aren’t from here," Holdridge said. “I‘ve been coming down here since 10th grade you know and you hear people who are like, ‘Downtown is blowing up, the Pearl is blowing up,’ and I’m like” It’s not blowing up. Blowing up to me means boom and bust and that’s one of the things I love about San Antonio, is that it doesn’t bust,” Chuck concluded.
“I feel like this town is really diverse, where one sector may slow down another sector kind of picks up. It’s a constant ever-improving kind of town. Here you are integrated into the community. People are searching for things they relate to, so if you take your time and do something right, you feel pretty confident it’s going to stick around.”
Architecture students, art buffs and just over all enthusiastic San Antonians gathered at Trinity University's Laurie Auditorium on Tuesday evening to hear Sir David Adjaye speak on the highly anticipated Ruby City, the two-story building south of downtown he designed to hold Linda Pace's art collection.
The modern-looking crimson building is scheduled to open Oct. 13 at 150 Camp St. Architectural Digest called it one of the 14 most anticipated buildings of 2019.
The evening began with the story of Ruby City's origins. In 2006, Pace, the late San Antonio artist and philanthropist, was visiting London with friends and collectors to see art. Among the friends was filmmaker Isaac Julien, who Pace had known since the mid-1990s, and who was also a trustee of one of Adjaye's first cultural buildings in East London. Pace was so partial to the building, she told Julien to introduce her to Adjaye, and the two hit it off immediately. Adjaye joked that Pace was such a visionary that she must have had the gift of foresight.
"There was something like magic in which she had with the artists," Adjaye told the auditorium. "Artists really gravitated towards her. They were very generous in terms of (their) work she had access to. And if you were lucky enough to meet Linda, get to know Linda, you really want to do the best for her. She had an incredible ability to pull you into your best."
The next year, Pace hired Adjaye for the project, and Adjaye would make two visits to San Antonio. Pace explained to Adjaye in detail the history San Antonio's history and the importance of its indigenous heritage. She took him to the Spanish colonial missions, which Adjaye described as inspiring and powerful. He believes that it's important to look at past generations when sculpting for the future.
During Adjaye's two visits to San Antonio, Pace lived in her apartment on Camp Street near Ruby City's future location and not far from where an old ice house stood.
"Actually she wasn't sure if she wanted to tear that down," Adjaye recalled. "So the first conversations where about ... what could they do with the old ice house? Could we leave it? It was this fascinating kind of mute building. It was almost a perfect art cube but it felt not … not quite right to fit the dream she was incubating."
Before one of his visits in 2007, after sitting on the idea for some time, Pace presented Adjaye with a "brief" of an idea for Ruby City: the sketch of a scarlet city she had seen in a dream. He was only able to show her a few of his own sketches in response—ideas he had for interpreting her vision—before she died of breast cancer in July.
They worked through many models, studying form and light. His focus was to bring in "zenithal light" with the notion that art spaces are backdrops to the art itself, understanding the color of light that illuminates the art and its different frequencies. The lighting in the galleries themselves pay homage to the different types of studios that artists may work in, such as factory buildings or converted sheds.
The building's form on the outside looks like it's constantly changing—different at every angle—while the inside was inspired by the circular walkways around the missions. It starts one place and ends back where you started, where you could almost walk around the building continuously. Every detail was thought out and had a purpose behind it. The entrance, for example, is a very shaded and dark space, a refresher for the eyes and a "retinal adjuster" to the lighting and tones that greet you when you enter.
Accomplishing the vivid red color of the exterior was no easy task as red concrete is almost impossible to create and keep bright without fading. With the help of a precasting company from Mexico City by the name of Pretecsa, they tested many samples outside until they finally got what Adjaye was keen to make.
"They added a recycled glass aggregate so that the beautiful light of the city always retracted, so it creates a kind of sparkle, which to me is the idea of magic," Adjaye said
The architect created the structure to have two textures made from the same material, the bottom portion is meant to be inviting and smooth to touch for guests while the top matte half contains the "magic."
The most prominent features of the entire building are the three giant windows that Adjaye refered to as "lenses" that tie together the relationship with the outside world with the spaces the art collections will occupy. The main window in the front, "the eye of the project," faces the San Pedro Creek, which Adjaye described as the origin of the city. Indeed, city archeologists believe the Mission de Valero, which would be later dubbed the Alamo, was founded on the creek near the present day San Francesco Di Paola Catholic Church, about 1½ miles north of Ruby City.
The window also overlooks a plaza sculpture garden and potentially an amphitheater as part of the San Pedro Creek restoration project. The second "lens" illuminates the staircase that goes around the building, creating a "lightwell." The third "lens" is focussed on the center, inviting you to get closer and sit down. Adjaye called it a space to reflect, as it overlooks Chris Park, the space on the opposite site of Camp Street named after Pace's son, Chris, who passed away at age 24, and to the San Antonio's skyline.