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Spend a day at the McNay — A treasure nestled in the heart of San Antonio

 
Spend a day at the McNay — A treasure nestled in the heart of San Antonio
HARRY & LINDA KAYE PEREZ — Marion McNay bequeathed her 24-room Spanish Colonial Revival home on North New Braunfels Avenue in San Antonio, along with her extensive art collection and 23 acres, to establish the first museum of modern art in Texas.

When you hear the words “art museum,” do you immediately think, “boring”? Then you haven’t been to the McNay Art Museum.

Throughout 2014, the McNay will be celebrating 60 years of collecting, preserving, and exhibiting works of art, and educating the public toward a greater understanding and enjoyment of the visual arts.

In the beginning

Jessie Marion Koogler, described as a shy girl from an affluent family, created her first work of art at age 9, a painting titled, “Fisherman.” Her parents recognized her talent and she attended some of the finest art schools in the United States and went on to teach art.

In 1918, at age 34, she married the love of her life, Don McNay, 10 years her junior. Together, they spent time in San Antonio before he reported for duty in Laredo for military training. Sadly, Don died 10 months later during the 1918 influenza epidemic.

When Marion’s father died in 1921, she inherited a substantial fortune from his oil holdings. She returned to San Antonio in 1926, hoping to recapture some of the happiness she felt on her first visit with Don. Although Marion married and divorced four more times, she always went back to the McNay name in memory of her first love. She never had children.

Building a dream

In 1927, construction began on her 24-room Spanish Colonial Revival home, named Sunset Hill, located at what is now the corner of Austin Highway and North New Braunfels Avenue. This would eventually become the core of the McNay Art Museum.

Marion continued to teach and collect art; upon her death in 1950, she provided an endowment to establish the first museum of modern art in Texas, along with over 700 works of art, her home and the surrounding 23 acres. Four short years later, the McNay opened its doors to the public. Between 1970 and 1994, there were seven additions to the original house, allowing the museum to grow to the spectacular facility it is today.

Step inside

The museum focuses primarily on 19th- and 20th-century European and American art, but also displays medieval and Renaissance works, art after 1945, and Southwestern art of New Mexico.

Walking from room to room, not only can you enjoy the art from some of the greats -- CÚzanne, Monet, Picasso, Gauguin, Matisse, O’Keefe and Rivera -- but you can also get a glimpse of the life of Marion McNay. Docents are available to answer questions about the art as well as the particular room you are in and how it was used by Marion McNay when it was her home.

Be sure to notice the elaborate stenciling on the ceiling and some of the doorways; these were done by Marion’s own hand. The courtyard in the center of the museum is a restful spot to just sit and soak up its beauty.

Spectacular scenery

As magnificent as the art collection is, it can only be rivaled by the building and the surrounding grounds. The beautifully landscaped gardens, fountains, expansive lawns, and a Japanese-inspired garden and fishpond provide an oasis in the heart of San Antonio. This is a favorite spot for wedding or family photos.

Don’t miss the sculptures throughout the grounds.

Something for everyone

The McNay has made it so easy to visit and enjoy the museum. Admission is free on Thursdays from 4-9 p.m., thanks to the sponsorship of H-E-B, and on the first Sunday of each month from noon to 5 p.m., sponsored by AT&T.

Check the McNay calendar for programs, including:

•Free Teen Night -- Art After Dark for high school students, including art, music, and food

•Free public tours on the first and third Sunday of every month at 3 p.m.

•Morning at the McNay: Art Strolls Family Program, where strollers and baby carriers are welcomed.

•Second Thursday of every month from 6-9 p.m., free music on the museum grounds by local bands or DJ, food trucks, and libations. Take a blanket or lawn chair.

•First Saturday of every month, take the kids and yoga mats for Yogiños, an interdisciplinary yoga curriculum that weaves yoga with original art, music, games, stories, and other sensory-integrated activities. This is also a free program, thanks to the F. B. Doane Foundation.

After visiting the McNay, you will understand why this is one of the great attractions of San Antonio.

Harry and Linda Kaye Perez are freelance writers from just down the road from Floresville. Together they share a passion for traveling and writing, and discovering the very best in all corners of the world. Email them at Harry-Linda411@att.net.



Find your way

The McNay Art Museum is located at 6000 North New Braunfels Ave. in San Antonio.

For information, call 210-824-5368 or visit www.mcnayart.org.

 
 
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