Over the last few weeks, UTSA’s Rare Books Librarian, Agnieszka Czeblakow has been working with Bryce Milligan and Bihl House Arts on an exhibit featuring books designed and produced by Milligan under the auspices of Wings Press. The exhibit, Necessary Work: Bryce Milligan’s World of Words and Design” opens with a reception, which is free and open to the public, at Bihl Haus Arts on Saturday, April 9, from 6 to 9 pm. The evening includes poolside jazz by George & Aaron Prado, libations and light hors d’oeuvres.
In addition, on Saturday, April 23, 2-4 PM, Bihl Haus will host a panel discussion “Independent Publishing and Book Design” with Bryce Milligan (publisher, editor, designer, Wings Press), Rosemary Catacalos (Poet Laureate of Texas, author of two fine press chapbooks), Roberto Bonazzi (publisher, Latitudes Press), and Dave Oliphant (publisher, Prickly Pear Press). Moderated by Agnieszka Czeblakow, Rare Books Librarian, UTSA Libraries Special Collections.
The exhibit, which kicks off National Poetry Month, highlights the importance of the cover designs, colors, bindings, papers, and threads, and invites the viewer to think about the books and their physical attributes and visual elements as complex objects imbued with meaning, cultural ideals and aesthetics of a particular time and place. It features books, archival materials such as photographs, correspondence and original artwork, which illuminate the myriad processes and decisions that go into designing and producing a book. From choosing letterpress or laser printing, selecting handmade papers and folding them into “signatures” to sewing, stapling or gluing the books together, the design process reflects the necessary work that goes into the creation of an object, which, in readers’ hands becomes “a coalescence of human intentions,”* beyond that of simple utilitarianism or commercial considerations.”
Wings Press began in 1975 as “an informal association of artists and cultural mythologists dedicated to the preservation of the Literature of Texas.” Managed by Joannie Whitebird and Joseph F. Lomax, the small, independent press, first based in Houston, published collections of poetry, works of music, fiction, and history. Upon Lomax’s death, in the early 80s, Whitebird took over Wings’ editorial and publishing duties and ran the press until 1995, when, with her health in decline, she sold it to Bryce Milligan for $100 and an oath sealed with a bloody handshake to “keep the press going.”
Since 1995, Milligan has published 200 books ranging from small, handmade chapbooks to 600-page hardbacks, as well as ebooks. Sharing Whitebirds’s vision of “small press as an agent of change through literature,” Milligan continues to publish multi-cultural books of poetry, fiction, drama, history, young adult and children’s literature, as well as broadsides, anthologies, textbooks and musical recordings. The Wings Press roster includes national and international award-winning poets and writers as well as regional and national poet laureates. However, the Press continues to publish works of little known writers across all of the Americas. The Wings Press mission statement, printed in every book, says: “We believe that good writing is innovative, insightful, and interesting. But most of all it is honest. As Bob Dylan put it, ‘To live outside the law, you must be honest’.”
Bryce Milligan is the author of five collections of poetry, Daysleepers &amp; Other Poems (1984), Litany Sung at Hell’s Gate (1991), From Inside the Tree (1990), Working the Stone (1994), Alms for Oblivion ( 2003) and Lost and Certain of It (2006). Milligan is also the author of four historical novels and short story collections for young adults, beginning with With the Wind, Kevin Dolan (1987), which received the Texas Library Association’s “Lone Star Book for Young Adults” award. Other works for young adults include Battle of the Alamo (1990), Comanche Captive (1990) and Lawmen: Stories of Men Who Tamed the West (1994).He is also the author of five regionally produced plays and well over 2,000 articles, essays, and reviews. He was the book critic for the San Antonio Express-News from 1982 to 1987, and for the San Antonio Light from 1987 to 1990.
The founding editor of Pax: A Journal for Peace through Culture (1983-1987) and Vortex: A Critical Review (1986-1990), he became in 1995 the publisher/editor of Wings Press, one of the oldest continually operating small presses in Texas. In 1985, Milligan co-founded (with Sandra Cisneros) the Annual Texas Small Press Bookfair, which evolved into the San Antonio Inter-American Book Fair. Milligan was the director of the literature program at the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center in San Antonio in 1986, and from 1994 to 2000. Milligan has taught at UTSA and Palo Alto college and as poet-in-the-schools with San Antonio ISD, and directed the only 4-year high school creative writing program in the country.
Bryce Milligan‘s collection documenting his work in San Antonio’s literary community is housed at UTSA Libraries Special Collections, and portions of it has been digitized. Included in the collection are manuscripts, drafts, galley proofs and correspondence related to Milligan’s many book and journal projects. The San Antonio Inter-American Book Fair and Latina Letters conference are represented through planning materials and correspondence. Also included are poetry, articles, chapbooks, newsletters, scrapbooks, and assorted digital media.
* Michael F. Suarez, Director of Rare Book School, Professor of English, University Professor and Honorary Curator of Special Collections at the University of Virginia.
Panelists spoke about the importance of preserving women’s history through unique archival collections, how collections can be used by researchers, future plans for growth of UTSA women’s history collections, and the evolution and planning of Women’s History Month over the years.
The panel was comprised of Amy Rushing, head of Special Collections, Melissa Gohlke, Assistant Archivist with Special Collections, Dr. Kirsten Gardner, Associate Professor of History at UTSA, and Ms. Luz Elena Solis Day, Mexican American Business and Professional Women’s Association.
Following the panel presentation, Amy Rushing and Ms. Solis Day engaged in a ceremonial signing over of the Mexican American Business and Professional Women’s Association records to UTSA Special Collections for preservation.
The Mexican-American Business and Professional Women’s Association (MABPW) was chartered in August of 1972 with 29 members. They are a nonsectarian, nonpartisan, nonprofit organization. MABPW is affiliated with the Texas and National Federations of Business & Professional Women’s Clubs, Inc. They use education and public engagement as vehicles to promote awareness of issues of equal pay for women, women’s rights, and health care concerns. They also work to help the San Antonio community by sponsoring and participating in local events year-round. MABPW donated their organizational records to UTSA Special Collections in 2015. The collection contains correspondence, meeting minutes, programs, yearbooks, photographs, newspaper articles, and other materials that document the activity of the club from its inception to the early 2000’s.
Realtor Robert A. Coker recently donated the photograph collection of life-long San Antonio resident Olive Nesbitt Brewster, daughter of Charles H. Brewster (1886-1955) and Olive Nesbitt Brewster (1888-1986). The collection (MS 458) contains studio portraits and snapshots of the Nesbitt and Brewster families, dating from the 1880s to the 1980s. Ms. Brewster had moved to a nursing home and the photographs were among the items left behind when the house was placed on the market. Many people would have discarded them. But Mr. Coker realized the documentary value of the collection and placed them with us so that researchers could benefit from them.
Among the late 19th century portraits in the collection are the work of San Antonio commercial photographers David P. Barr, Asa A. Brack, and Alonzo N. Callaway. But of greater interest to cultural historians are the Kodak snapshots taken by Charles and Olive Brewster and their friends, beginning around 1910. They show outings to parks in San Antonio and nearby towns. The couple’s photos record the period of their courtship and early years of their marriage, including numerous photographs of their first child, Charles Jr., at home and on family excursions. Continuing the custom of carrying a camera, the couple’s daughter, also named Olive Nesbitt Brewster, took pictures of her recreational activities. Collectively, these images help us understand the way previous generations spent their leisure time in South Central Texas.
These are a few of the photographs from the Brewster family albums.
Olive Nesbitt (right) and a friend on a ride in Electric Park, West Evergreen Street at San Pedro Creek, San Antonio, circa 1910. (MS458: 115-0360)
- MS 460 Pan American Round Table of Houston Records: 6 boxes (7 linear feet) of organizational papers of PART of Houston, dating back to about 1940.
- UA 99.0028 UTSA. Papers of Faculty and Staff: Martinello, Marian: 1 box ( .5 linear feet) consisting of certificates and photos related to the work of Dr. Martinello, former Professor in the College of Education and Human Development.
Dr. Marian Martinello held a significant role in the development of UTSA and its College of Education and Human Development. Dr. Marinello was enthusiastic about history, especially San Antonio history, and wrote several historical inquiry books. UTSA Special Collections is honored to have her papers added to the University Archives.
- UA 99.0016 UTSA. Papers of Faculty and Staff: Gelo, Daniel: 1 box (.5 linear feet) of faculty papers of College of Liberal and Fine Arts Dean and Department of Anthropology Professor Daniel J. Gelo.
- 20 titles [February Title List]
“Examines the religion, family, economics, and material culture of women’s lives in the late Spanish and Mexican colonial communities in 1750-1846 through women’s wills. The wills help to explain the workings of the patriarchal system in the Spanish and Mexican borderland communities”–
UTSA Special Collections staff was sad to learn of the recent passing of Helen Cloud Austin on February 22, 2016. Special Collections had a long relationship with Austin, beginning in 1997 when she donated the first portion of her papers to the University. However, prior to 1997, Austin had already completed a prolific career in social work in San Antonio and beyond, earning local and national recognition for her dedication.
Austin was born in 1925 in Kentucky, and earned her Masters of Science degree in 1953 from the University of Louisville’s Raymond A. Kent School of Social Work, where she was only the second African-American to attend. After graduation she began work in Chicago at Cook County Hospital. In 1957 she moved to Cincinnati, Ohio, where she became Chief of the Outpatient Department at Longview State Hospital. Her husband’s civil service work led the couple to San Antonio in 1962, where she had trouble finding professional work in the public sector due to Texas’ racial segregation laws. These laws were thankfully overturned in 1965, and Austin was finally able to secure employment that matched her qualifications. That year she was hired by the San Antonio State Hospital; she was the first African-American professional to work there.
Austin spent nearly 23 years at the San Antonio State Hospital before retiring in 1987. During her career she was responsible for implementing several new programs, including orientation for newly admitted patients, transportation services for family and friends of patients, and encouraging short-term patients to register and vote. In 1983 she was recognized as San Antonio Social Worker of the Year, as well as Texas Social Worker of the Year. In 1984 she was honored as the nation’s Social Worker of the Year, making her the only Texas to receive all three awards.
After retirement Austin remained active in the San Antonio community. She served as a volunteer at the State Hospital, participated in Delta Sigma Theta sorority activities (member since 1945), and began the Senior Citizen Ministry at St. Paul United Methodist Church. She also served on the boards of San Antonio area mental health and community organizations, and was a life member of the NAACP. Her impact on the community, as well as her absence from it, will be felt for many years to come.
Helen Cloud Austin’s Papers are housed at UTSA’s Main Campus and can be viewed by appointment in the John Peace Library Special Collections Reading Room. The collection guide for her papers is available online, and the majority of her papers are also available to view online through the collection guide.
(Sterling Houston Papers) Sterling Houston had a thirty-year career in professional theater as an actor, musician and writer in San Antonio, New York and San Francisco. The Sterling Houston Papers primarily document Houston’s involvement in San Antonio theater through scripts, screenplays, programs, and press materials. Also included are correspondence, research materials, project files, photographs, and audiovisual materials.
Sterling Houston was born in San Antonio in 1945. Houston attended Los Angeles City College before dropping out in 1964 to study acting in New York. He worked as an actor Off-Broadway and was involved with the Playhouse of Ridiculous theater. In 1968 Houston moved to San Francisco with Larry Neal, his partner and collaborator. For the next seven years they performed as the rock and roll band, Fleshtones. In 1978, Houston returned to theater and began working at the Magic Theatre as a stage technician, staff technician, actor and advisor on issues of African-American and gay sensitivity. In 1981, panicked by health issues, Houston returned to San Antonio to join the family real estate business.
After returning to San Antonio, Houston became involved with the local community and professional theater companies as an actor, director and producer. In 1983, encouraged by a residency with George C. Wolfe, Houston began to write plays. In 1985 he was commissioned by the San Antonio Museum of Art to create a work about the Harlem Renaissance, which became the musical, A’Lelia. Houston joined Jump-Start Performance Company, a not-for-profit presenting and producing theater company, dedicated to the exploration of alternative viewpoints in performance, in 1988 and worked as performer, writer-in-residence, administrative director and artistic director over the next 18 years, premiering 30 plays in that time. His theatrical works in that time include: Relationships: Good and Not So Good, a collaboration with dancer Blondell Cummings, which toured nationally; La Frontera, about a Latino family moving into San Antonio’s historically black East Side; High Yello’ Rose, an all-female musical retelling of the myths of traditional Texas history toured to Austin, after a successful run in San Antonio; Isis in Nubia , an epic re-telling of the myths of ancient Egypt; Santo Negro, a mixed-media musical around events in the life of 16th century African saint, Martin de Porres; On the Pulse of the Morning , a collaboration with poet Maya Angelou for a cast of nine speakers and four singers; Black Lily, White Lily a domestic farce chosen to open Cleveland Public Theatre’s Festival of New Plays; The Alien Show/Kool Jams ‘99 , a play with music dealing with aliens, alienation, and the coming millennium; Message Sent , a short play commissioned by the Actor’s Theater of Louisville’s Humana Festival; Cameoland , a musical history of San Antonio’s African American community before integration; Miranda Rites, a surrealistic tragicomedy. His plays are known for their biting social commentary, burlesque humor, and intensive musical ideas.
Sterling Houston received numerous honors and accolades throughout his theatrical career. He earned the Individual Artist Grant from the Department of Arts and Cultural Affairs, City of San Antonio three times, and was one of only a few Texans to receive a commissioning grant from the Mid-America Arts Alliance. He was chosen “Artist of the Year” in 1991 by the San Antonio Business Committee for the Arts and in 1992 by the San Antonio Light. In 1997, Houston was the recipient of the prestigious Arts and Letters Award from the San Antonio Public Library, given for outstanding contributions to the arts and cultural life of San Antonio. High Yello’ Rose was nominated for seven Alamo Theater Arts Council Globe awards in 1993, winning two, for Best Original Score, and Best New Script. Houston was one of two local recipients of a New Forms Regional Initiative Grant (NFRIG) funded by the Rockefeller Foundation, the Andy Warhol Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts, for the commissioning of Santo Negro, which also received a grant from Art Matters, Inc., and was selected by The Art Institute of Chicago to be a part of The Americas: Zones of Contact series in spring of 1995. In 1997 the State of Texas Legislature recognized Sterling Houston with a citation for his outstanding contributions to the cultural life of the state. Houston received a Rockefeller MAP (Multi-Arts Production fund) grant for research and development of Cameoland, which was presented in collaboration with the Carver Community Cultural Center in 2003 and was cited by the San Antonio Express News as one of the ten best plays of that year.
Houston lectured and presented on his work in theater at colleges and institutions in Chicago, New York, London, Boston, Cleveland, New Orleans, Dallas, Austin and San Antonio. He served as a peer review panelist for the states of Nevada, Georgia and Texas, and presented on panels for the National Endowment for the Arts, Grantmakers in the Arts, Outwrite, College Art Association, and The Art Institute of Chicago, and the Association of Theater in Higher Education. Houston was also involved in community projects, including the clean-up of Ellis Alley in east San Antonio and the Founding Mothers Mural and the McCreless Library Project. He died in November 2006.
The Sterling Houston Papers can be viewed online through the collection guide. Select the “view contents” links. Access the physical materials can be obtained by submitting a “request access to a collection” online form. The collection is housed at UTSA’s main campus and can be accessed at the John Peace Library Special Collections reading room.
Sources: Sterling Houston Biography 1945-2006. Jump-Start Blog, http://jump-start.org/?p=191; Hennessy, Keith. “Jump-Start Performance Co.: Interview with Sterling Houston.” Community Arts Network; and Paddie, Dennis. Sterling Houston Walkin’ His Blues. The Gay and Lesbian Review, vol. 14, no. 2.
This month we continue “Names and Places of UTSA,” a blog series on university history, with a post by archives student assistant, Marissa Del Toro.
One of the central hubs of the university, the McKinney Humanities building sees hundreds of students, staff, and faculty pass through its halls on a daily basis. Posters line the walls, students wait around for their next class to begin, and organizations set out tables to recruit new members. While the name McKinney may not be easily recognizable to many, the person behind the eponym is a kindred soul who understood the value of education.
The McKinney Humanities building was named after Mary E. McKinney (1930-2009), a San Antonio native, who was born and raised on the Southside. Her father and mother, a Southern Pacific railroad engineer and a homemaker, never had the opportunity to attend college, but they made it a priority for their daughter. She attended Trinity University, earned her bachelor’s degree in 1950, and later earned her master’s degree at the University of Texas at Austin. She became a teacher, serving the public and private schools in San Antonio for 25 years, retiring from St. Margaret Mary Catholic School on the Southeast Side.
McKinney continued her education by taking additional classes at UTSA. According to Lydia Lum, McKinney enrolled in postgraduate courses from 1992 to 1996, taking classes ranging from Latin and philosophy to ancient history and Dante. It was during this time that McKinney learned about the student struggle to cover rising tuition costs. While standing in line for registration, she overheard a student conversation about the need for two or more jobs to afford tuition. Resolute with this revelation, McKinney went to the development office and insisted on starting a scholarship fund to assist low-income students. Known as the Felix and Elizabeth McKinney Memorial Scholarship Fund, it is named in honor of her parents.
Ms. McKinney’s generosity towards UTSA continued even beyond her death in 2009. McKinney’s will revealed that she bequeathed the remainder of her estate—which included $22 million of personal property, stocks, and bonds—to UTSA. Part of this donation, valued at $13 million, comes from three South Texas ranches in Atascosa and Frio counties on the Eagle Ford Shale. McKinney inherited most of this land from her parents, including part of her mother’s family inheritance and an investment made by her father when land was still $10 an acre. This donation ensures that the Felix and Elizabeth McKinney Memorial Scholarship Fund will continue as a full-ride scholarship for low-income new students, as well as smaller scholarships for upper-division students.
McKinney was an advocate of education, who also donated personal items to UTSA. Our Rare Books collection includes her cache of titles on Texas and San Antonio history. These volumes range from Fabulous San Antonio to After Half Moon: A History of Shiner, Texas, 1887-1975. Evident from her personal book collection and tremendous support of UTSA, McKinney was proud to be a Texan and San Antonian. Dr. Romo once described McKinney as “an outstanding, humble Texan who did not care for fame or recognition.” He also noted that through her donation she would “help generations of UTSA students achieve their education goals.”
UTSA honored the memory and legacy of McKinney by renaming the former Humanities Social Science building in 2011. The McKinney Humanities building, also known as the MH building, is one of the seven original buildings and was also the first building to open at the main campus. When the building opened in 1975 it was known as the Humanities Business building, housing the offices of the faculty and staff for the humanities and business programs as well as nine lecture halls and 51 classrooms. According to the May 1975 UTSA Bulletin, the building—designed by campus architects Ford, Powell & Carson and Bartlett Cocke & Association—was made to convey a feeling of “simplicity and flexibility” but with a “sense of style.”
The building is a massive four story enclave, which is now home to the College of Liberal and Fine Arts, including offices for 23 of COLFA’s undergraduate degree programs and its 13 graduate degrees, along with the Veterans Certification Office. There are numerous niches, interior patios, and skylight roofs that create an ideal atmosphere for students studying but also for social gatherings. On any given day, a stroll through MH reveals numerous scenes of students frantically studying outside of their classroom, organizations fundraising for their next big event, and professors gliding towards their offices in anticipation of the line of students waiting to discuss their grade. Filled with students, staff, and faculty who are encouraged to pursue and lead an education with integrity, excellence, inclusiveness, respect, collaboration, and innovation, this is the best environment to honor the legacy of Mary E. McKinney. So the next time you walk (or run) to your class in the McKinney building, give a little smile to the woman who helped UTSA.
Lorna Stafford, “HSS Building renamed McKinney Humanities Building in honor of benefactor,” UTSA Today (http://www.utsa.edu/today/2011/02/mckinneybuilding.html), accessed January 31, 2015. Originally published by UTSA Today on February 9, 2011.
Lydia Lum, “Former Texas Public School Teacher Leaves Millions to UT-San Antonio,” Diverse: Issues in Higher Education (http://diverseeducation.com/article/14243/), accessed January 31, 2015. Originally published by Diverse: Issues in Higher Education on October 8, 2010.
Greta Kaul, “UTSA capital campaign wraps up with a cool $180 million,” San Antonio Express-News (http://www.expressnews.com/news/education/article/UTSA-capital-campaign-wraps-up-with-a-cool-180-6552589.php), accessed January 31, 2015. Originally published by San Antonio Express-News on October 5, 2015.
Maria Di Mento, “No. 41 (tied): Mary E. McKinney,” The Chronicle of Philanthropy (https://philanthropy.com/article/No-41-tied-Mary-E/159133), accessed January 31, 2015. Originally published by San Antonio Express-News on February 06, 2011.
Christi Fish, “Mary E. McKinney bequeaths $22 million estate for UTSA student scholarships,” UTSA Today (http://www.utsa.edu/today/2010/10/mckinneygift.html), accessed January 31, 2015. Originally published by UTSA Today on October 6, 2010.
Melissa Ludwig, “Ex-teacher gives $22 million to UTSA,” mySA (http://www.mysanantonio.com/news/local/article/Ex-teacher-gives-22-million-to-UTSA-689360.php#photo-356176), accessed January 31, 2015. Originally published by mySA on October 5, 2010.