Hunting Blind #7: The Mission Heritage Partners
Cultural Entrepreneur and Chicken Soup
For the Mission Heritage Partners Gala 2023
To start. I grew up with a dog named Rothko, after the painter Mark Rothko. He was a schnauzer. He was a good dog.
The story of the painting that raised a heck of a lot for a good cause in one night. In essence a small group of friends raising financial and cultural support for a worthy cause. That cause being The San Antonio Missions that started the city of San Antonio more than 300 years ago. The San Antonio Missions are a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
In short, this story is the stuff of dreams. I will open with chicken soup, one of my favorite soups … my grandfather's was calabacita. My grandfather was Rodrigo Gonzales or as we knew him “Boompa”.
I don’t think chicken soup has changed ever since there have been yardbirds (chickens) on this earth to put in a pot with some root vegetables, fresh water, and some kind of rice or pasta to cook over a long period of time. The outcome... chicken soup! Ever since mankind and the domesticated chicken/ bird has existed chicken soup has been around. A bonus, it's good for the soul.
I think there comes a point in everyone’s life when they just sit down and say…
“Well, what just happened?”
This comes down after a long string of circumstances, many of which don’t seem to be linked in any particular manner, but are. A series of events that can take some time to process, understand and explain, but at the end will be an inspiration to at least a few people.
One such instance culminated after a gala in 2023 in a parking lot in front of an office. Quite a sizable check was handed over in a nondescript envelope. Hand written on the front and blue pen said Mission Heritage Partners. The check that was enclosed had a number of zeros behind it.
“What just happened?” was on everyone’s mind.
KLRN, KSAT 12 and Ursula Pari had reported about the painting and the happenings of the painting. Calls came in from family and friends saying “Hey, that’s your friend Rex” or “Hey, pick up the phone … that’s that artist I know!” or the best … “Hey, mom … look I’m on TV.” Usually as an artist you don’t get much fanfare, you just go about your daily work … not expecting much in return other than the ability to keep doing what you love to do. Andy Warhol called it “15 min of fame…”
Regardless, the news reported on the painting and for that I’m very thankful for. Our community loved it … then, the auction happened. A big deal dinner with all the donors, papel picado and festivities … The painting raised as much money as the price of a car in a matter of minutes. The high sale of the evening was the painting “Mission Espada: The Hunting Blind #7”. In San Antonio a painting selling for that amount is a big deal. The experience was awesome for all, including the buyer (Dr. Mark) who received my writings on the painting in a wooden book built by Jesse Moreno. My San Antonio Spurs hat from the St. Mary’s University project, my wooden watch that I wear every day from Brad Cornell of Hope for Heroes and bolo tie hand made by Gary Williamson at the studios. My first bolo tie might I add, in honor of my grandfather on my dad’s side, Milton Hausmann or as we knew him “Pops”... and later, homemade chicken soup.
The question was asked: how did you do this? I responded, “I’m not sure I understand the question.”
One of the long-time staff of Mission Heritage Partners, Santiago, said “I think you’re an artist and a cultural entrepreneur”. I responded with two counters “Well, I guess with chicken soup…. That and who you’re sharing that chicken soup with.” Mark & Denise would soon be sharing chicken soup in their office with me which I had made on a Sunday.
That in essence is the real response … chicken soup … or rather two responses. Who cooked the chicken soup and who is eating that chicken soup around a table with you?
Mark said “The key is you must see potential before potential is actually realized.”
That may sound cryptic, but in reality is great advice. It’s quite clearly stated on the outside of our family buildings at The Hausmann Millworks: A Creative Community in San Antonio, Texas. “Grow Where You are Planted”. That and the other phrase which is a “Creative Community”. This does not say art people or art studios for rent or an art space … no, it specifically says a creative community for a reason. This place is genuinely a community.
I grew up in San Antonio and coming to these buildings in the old part of town. Alta Vista started in about the 1900’s. Our family buildings have been for almost 50 years. My father is a furniture designer and my mother, a business woman who has a love of art and riding horses. We as a family try to see potential before it’s realized. In every corner of everything. Our little farm was once a bull barn, a 1940's Texas “Rambler “ style house. That all changed when our family moved in. Bit by bit the bull barn became a horse barn, designed by my father for my mother. The house became a home. In our manufacturing buildings in the old side of town, they became a home in studios for others. The old cars that I keep running are my mother's 1996 Lexus LS 400 and my father's 2001 F250 shop truck, with a stick shift 5 speed. In the garden plants with some very old root beds. It’s all there.
As in buildings and potential … In life we as a family stick with each other. In marriage my mother and father came to one accord and have been married for 42 years happily raising myself and my brother. They decided to marry one another when they visited The Rothko Chapel in Houston, Texas. Thus the dog “Rothko” who I grew up with. In the chapel my mom saw Jesus in Rothko’s monolithic paintings and my dad saw my mom. The rest is history.
This is literally the start. The thing that helped build our family was a small business of two people, Gene and Renee Hausmann. In the beginning, my father started the business with a friend graduating from Trinity University becoming a furniture designer. He helped start The Southwest School of Art and Craft and helped some major institutions with their woodwork. My mother and father then bought my father’s partner out and created Hausmann and Hausmann Design Company. A company that ran for about 31 years in the buildings that The Hausmann Millworks: A Creative Community is housed. Established 1976 re-purposed 2007. We are now in 2023. As my mom always says “we’ve been driving down I-10 for close to 40 years now. Same drive.”
My mother and father completed work all over the United States and the world. Focusing mostly on double grade A Millwork, that’s fancy. In San Antonio, The St. Mary’s Moot Court, The downtown Library designed by Legoretta, The 225th Judges Chambers in The Bexar County CourtHouse. Out of town Texas A & M College Station libraries. The Speaker of The House Private Quarters in Austin, Texas and in Washington D.C. The Folger Shakespeare Library Redesign, the Saudi ambassadorial residence in Riyadh,Saudi Arabia amongst other things and Ivy League University libraries on West and East Coast. Both my brother and I grew up in this environment. We grew up with business discussions, installing cabinets with my father and our team. I still remember installing office wood work on Thanksgiving eve at 2 AM at a large attorneys office. Even the security guards quit and left us the keys saying we can turn the keys in after the holidays. At the family business my brother and I swept floors, sanded boards and learned accounting and basic management. We worked a lot. It was a good way to grow up and really teaches you to appreciate the small things. Those long hot summers in the shop really taught us how to work and It is with this foundation that I’ve learned my work ethic.
When we started the studios, we had a hope and a prayer. It was myself and David Almaguer and my Mom and Dad. The idea was simple. I had learned in art history (first at UTSA and then at Savannah College of Art and Design) that Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns were artist friends. The very famous gallerist Leo Castelli, a New York centric gallerist saw Jasper Johns work while visiting Robert Rauschenberg. The rest as you can say was history, Rauschenberg became one of New York’s top painters and America for that matter Jasper Johns as well. We built the studios off that simple idea... sharing and showing up to work.
My mother loved throwing educational seminars and gallery openings … My dad is building and coming up with floor plans. One studio at a time we built the place. When we had some of our first studio visits, to say the place was humble was an understatement, but it worked. These days we have 55 - 60 studios with incredible artists and art hanging everywhere. Simplicity, hospitality, and community are our bedrocks.
Through the years, the context has grown and we have received notoriety through small parties, one building to the next. Now it’s Universities, museums in international projects. Our little garden has grown. The buildings have never been perfect, but they get better and better, always better just like a gardener cultivating the soil. At first we had massive gallery shows with tons of people who would show up, they came from all over town. We organized shows and threw parties with whatever we had available. Now we have open studios and work with universities, non-profits, and community groups … lately even major New York galleries … heck, the Archdiocese of New York City and in some cases … governments.
In our actual garden at The Hausmann Millworks is a rose bush that’s about 14 years old. It was from the Home Depot sale aisle my mom picked up and a guy named Doug Moore, a retired farmer, and a Navigator helped me plant that box. The Rose has survived three freezes, and I don’t know how many monsoons it still grows back every season.
As a building we’ve grown in size, so has our reputation and contacts. The family would build studios as we had the available funds to do so. We’d fill the studios and then build some more. Of course we have people come and people go but constancy has always been at the studios.
Slowly, but surely by word of mouth more and more people would come to hear about "The Mill" as we call it. We’d have community services and community cookie exchanges and seminars. We’d have book readings and shows based on French Cheese. Don’t know how many exhibitions we’ve thrown over the past 16 years but it’s alot, if the shows generate community and camaraderie we’re in!
The question of how did you do this came up and my response was a simple answer . You will do the same thing you’ve always done. You’ll do the same with $20 that you will do with $200 that you will do with $2000. It’s all part of the daily … or $20,000, giving it all away for a good cause. Simply put... re-invest!
I call it “the daily” … meaning … doing the daily tasks that is before you to the best of your ability as Tadashi Ando describes in the definition of a Shokunin or a crafts person:
“The Japanese word shokunin is defined by both Japanese and Japanese-English dictionaries as ‘craftsman’ or ‘artisan,’ but such a literal description does not fully express the deeper meaning. The Japanese apprentice is taught that shokunin means not only having technical skills, but also implies an attitude and social consciousness … The shokunin has a social obligation to work his/her best for the general welfare of the people. This obligation is both spiritual and material, in that no matter what it is, the shokunin’s responsibility is to fulfill the requirement.”
Or simply put:
“Do to others as you would have them do to you.” - Luke 6:31 NIV
The pursuit of “the daily” creates excellence, and by holding a standard of excellence this forms a ripple in a pond that the reverberations can be felt, no matter how small the task. This could be writing a letter, or making a painting or organizing some group thing for an exhibition. Doesn’t really matter how big or how small “the daily” is, what matters in the end is that you stay true to your calling.
I wonder what Mark Rothko would think?
⁃ Rex Hausmann, Spring 2023