CoA lecture series features artists Joe O’Connell, Blessing Hancock

Date: Wednesday, November 6, 2013
Time: 5:30 p.m.
Location: Buena Vista Bldg., Aula Canaria (BV 1.328), UTSA Downtown Campus
Lecture Title: Public Art and Placemaking

Free parking in UTSA Lot D-3, underneath I-35
UTSA Downtown Campus Map

By Nicole Chavez
Development Associate

(October 30, 2013) -- The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) will feature artistic duo Joe O’Connell and Blessing Hancock of Creative Machines Inc. as part of the UTSA College of Architecture’s Fall Lecture Series. The free, public lecture, “Public Art and Placemaking,” is presented with support from Public Art San Antonio (PASA), and will take place at 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday, November 6 in the Buena Vista Building’s Aula Canaria (BV 1.328) on the UTSA Downtown Campus.

O’Connell and Hancock are the artists behind “Ballroom Luminoso,” a permanent installation that transformed an ordinary San Antonio underpass at Theo/Malone and IH-35 on the city’s South Side into an elegant community shadow theater. They will discuss the concept of art and placemaking in public spaces.

Jimmy LeFlore, Public Art Manager for PASA, will present the lecturers and serve as moderator for a Q&A session following their presentation.

O’Connell (pictured at right) is a technologist with an interest in living systems; Hancock is a sculptor with an interest in machines. Creative Machines Inc. is the team’s 14,000 square-foot fabrication facility in Tucson, Arizona where they employ 14 artists, designers, engineers, and craftspeople. 

O’Connell and Hancock aim to give people new experiences and inspiration in their daily encounters with the world through their art. Their works often involve technology — LEDs, sound, touch-sensitive circuitry, optical projection, and microcontrollers — but are also very physically rooted in their place.

“Ballroom Luminoso” was commissioned by PASA as part of the City of San Antonio's 2012-2017 Bond Program. The installation was permanently lighted in May of 2013 and was the first project in a series to be completed in the area. A series of six lighted, color-changing sculptures hang like chandeliers from the underpass, each casting bright shapes and colored shadows throughout the underpass area. The sculptures were made from recycled bike parts and custom-cut metals, while the LED lights used allowed for creative expression with minimal maintenance.

O’Connell and Hancock (pictured at right) began the project with extensive research into the cultural and social aspects of the neighborhoods surrounding the site. The artists’ hyper-local approach resulted in an installation that promotes neighborhood connectivity while creating an inviting space beyond the city center. “Ballroom Luminoso” plays off contrasts — the “chandeliers” were crafted from bike parts picked from trash bins, while the mixed-language name reflects the area’s cross-cultural heritage.

The public response has been overwhelmingly positive, with features published locally and in publications such as The Atlantic Cities, a digital subset of The Atlantic.

In October of 2013, the City's Department for Culture & Creative Development announced that “Ballroom Luminoso” (pictured below) won the SXSW Eco Award for Transformative Design in the Public Space Design Competition. The award recognizes excellence in how a design shapes or reinterprets the physical environment, reinforcing the fact that San Antonio is committed to transforming public spaces through public art.

“Inclusion of presentations on public art in our lecture series helps to reinforce the inherent connection between art and architecture, especially the architecture of public spaces,” said John Murphy, dean of the College of Architecture at UTSA.

For more information about the College of Architecture Fall Lecture Series, contact Nicole Chavez at or (210) 458-3121.