With displays of signature places and icons special to the city, the newly-installed street pole banners featuring artwork from local artist and San Marcos native Rene Perez are adding excitement and color to downtown San Marcos.
There are four banners in total, each featuring a different place or animal that is unique to San Marcos—most notably the river, a bobcat and a rattlesnake. Much of Perez’s artwork is largely inspired by things he sees around San Marcos and his everyday life.
“It could be a picture I took of my cat; it could be going to the river and seeing some light reflecting off the water,” Perez said. “I take a lot of pictures so my photography definitely has a lot to do with [my paintings] too.”
The banners are part of a new placemaking initiative led by the city’s Main Street Program with help from the city’s Capital Improvements and Engineering Department, the Public Services Transportation Division and the Convention and Visitor Bureau. The placemaking initiative was designed to create spaces where people would want to spend their time.
Perez said the city gave him a lot of creative freedom when it came to determining what illustration would go on the banners. The Main Street Program said he could choose any of his previous paintings to put on the banners, but Perez ultimately decided to paint four new paintings. Three of the paintings are inspired by the San Marcos River.
“I went to high school here and you know, there’s never enough school spirit downtown, so I’m like, I’m gonna put a rattler (San Marcos High School mascot) right up front and of course, I had to throw a bobcat in the back too,” Perez said. “I wanted to get the feel of the river and all but then twist it so I added the sunglasses and hat just to make it a little fun and quirky.”
Another painting of the river features the Lion’s Club Tube Rental. Being a Leo, the zodiac sign characterized by a lion, Perez said inspiration from Lion’s Club gave him an excuse to paint lions.
“I was sitting on the banks [of the river] one day and there was the sunset right there by the Lion’s Club and it dawned on me. I was like, ‘I should just paint this sunset right here’, and I put the lion in the front and it kind of popped up real nice,” Perez said.
According to Josie Falletta, City of San Marcos downtown coordinator, the banners are just one part of the placemaking initiative. Falletta said it was important for the Main Street Program to work with a local artist like Perez, especially since he is well known and loved for his depictions of the city in his artwork.
“We wanted to make sure, as we’re installing these banners for the first time, that the artwork on them was something that’s vibrant, that [it’s] visually interesting and that it represents things that you can see only in San Marcos,” Falletta said.
Jamey Poole is the vice-chair of the San Marcos Arts Commission and a long-time friend of Perez and his family. Although the San Marcos Arts Commission did not work on the banner project, Poole was also born and raised in San Marcos and is a big fan of Perez’s work.
“[Perez’s paintings] are playful; they’re approachable, you know, anyone can engage with them and they’re so full of great characters,” Poole said. “It’s like he is celebrating all of us in San Marcos and you can just tell that he loves the place where he’s living and creating.”
Like Falletta, Poole also believes it is important to support local artists in the community given that San Marcos lies between San Antonio and Austin—two big cities with their own large art communities. She said while those two cities are great and have their own qualities that are special to them, San Marcos is also unique in its own ways.
“I think we revel in that reputation—that [San Marcos] is unique, that it is unpredictable, that it is a fun place to be,” Poole said. “It’s a little, you know, unbuttoned, a little more free and open. I think Rene’s artwork totally captures that.”
Poole hopes when visitors and new residents see Rene’s artwork they see the uniqueness of San Marcos and take pride in the city’s local arts community.
All four of Perez’s paintings featured on the banners are currently on display at Blue Dahlia Bistro.