We had the good fortune of connecting with Rigoberto Luna and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Rigoberto, let’s start by talking about what inspires you?
When we began Presa House, it was primarily motivated to create an art space that was non-white-centered and develop opportunities for artists that lacked visibility. We worked tirelessly building our program and establishing ourselves locally and throughout the region. Ultimately, we earned a well-respected reputation for working with some of the brightest emerging artists in the state. Our success only reflects those artists and their professionalism, passion for their craft, and deep commitment to their practice. I’m genuinely inspired each day by our artists and grateful for their trust and partnership. Witnessing them reach new heights of success fills me with deep satisfaction and has driven my efforts over the past six years.
Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
We’ve dedicated our lives to the arts. Jenelle and I both work as museum professionals at the McNay Museum and San Antonio Art Museum, respectively, and have our art, design, and photography backgrounds to lean back on. We bring our years of experience to the gallery and our artists. We also understand the pressures and stress that artists go through and empathize with the challenges, and do everything we can to support them.
The relationships and trust we’ve built with our artists have been the most significant part of our success and the most gratifying. We help them document their work, give advice when needed with writing grants or submitting applications, or be there to listen when they have questions or need reassurance about their direction. There is so much more to our program than providing a space to sell their artwork.
However, it hasn’t been an easy road. We’ve had to make enormous sacrifices and face challenge after challenge. The pandemic’s uncertainty was and still is incredibly daunting, but we’ve managed to stay above water. Much of that is thanks to the unwavering support of our community, both near and far. It’s incredible the network we’ve established in part due to COVID-19 forcing us to go the extra mile and take our programming online. It created visibility that previously didn’t exist and is an excellent example of how we’ve made it work repeatedly. We’ve consistently faced a new set of circumstances or conditions that force us to adapt, be flexible, and rely on our creativity to find a new way forward.
Presa House has become so much bigger than Jenelle and me in many ways. What I’d like for people to know about our operation is that we do this for the artists. Our sales commission and additional proceeds support the gallery’s upkeep, programming, and exhibition opportunities. We are committed to continually providing the platform we’ve established because we have proof it’s worked, helped several people, and is still needed.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
We’d start the day close to home with breakfast tacos at The Original Donut Shop or Garcia’s. Usually, when they visit, they’re interested in visiting our local art destinations, so we’ll always stop in at the San Antonio Museum of Art, the McNay Art Museum, Artpace, Centro de Artes, and Ruby City. San Antonio also has some beautiful great outdoor artworks to visit. A few of my favorites are the murals of Adriana Garcia, a pair of obelisk-shaped luminaria’s by Angel Rodríguez–Díaz, and the monumental mosaic tile works by Jesse Treviño. As for places to hang out, that all depends on what events are happening around the city. We might take them to a Spurs game or catch a live music show at Luna Lounge. As for drinks, we’d probably take them to the Modernist, walk over to Sternewirth at Hotel Emma, visit Havana Bar, and end the night close to home at The Lighthouse Lounge. Dinner can go a lot of directions depending on the person. We love El Bucanero’s delicious seafood; we regular Niki’s Tokyo Inn, SINGHS Vietnamese, Sichuan house, and Thai Dee, and if we go vegan, the Tex-Mex food at Viva Vegeria is incredible. There’s also 2M BBQ and Outlaw Kitchens, Il Forno Pizza, Wayne’s Wings, and Pollos Asados Los Norteños; it just depends on what they’re in the mood to eat. Seeing how we’re located in San Antonio, there are countless quality Tex-Mex and Mexican restaurants, and we can’t forget the late-night taco trucks.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
The lifespan of an art gallery can be short, and I certainly would have never imagined being in operation as long as we have. Much of the credit I owe to the support of my partner in business and life, interdisciplinary artist Jenelle Esparza. As Co-founder of Presa House, we built this and watched it grow together through the ups and downs and I’m forever grateful to her. Jenelle splits her time as an educator at the McNay Art Museum, her successful studio practice, and helping me pull together our monthly exhibitions and programs at Presa House. I have a profound admiration and awe for all she is, brilliant, determined, kind, and loving. No one is more deserving of all the accolades and accomplishments in her artistic career, and I’m sure there will be many more to come.
Mayuko Ono Gray, 諸行無常_This too, shall pass, June 2022. Courtesy Presa House Gallery. Verónica Gaona, In Search of a Better Death, March 2022. Courtesy Presa House Gallery. Crossing Borders: Tres de Oeste, April 2022. Courtesy Presa House Gallery. Mich Stevenson, Road Rev: Reverence and Revelation, February 2022. Courtesy Presa House Gallery. Jenelle Esparza, Old Souls, August 2021. Courtesy Presa House Gallery. John Guzman, I Would Have Killed to Seen It, July 2021. Courtesy Presa House Gallery. andie flores, but always near poets, January 2021. Courtesy Presa House Gallery. Jenelle Esparza in her studio, San Antonio, Texas, 2022. Courtesy Presa House Gallery.