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LIíL KIM (ABERNETHY) Q&A with san Antonio River Foundation Executive Director

San Antonio River Foundation Executive Director Kim Abernethy builds community, shops at Costco


photo from the San Antonio River Foundation website

Kim Abernethy is a secret radical. Sure, she may come across as a no-nonsense executive who hobnobs effortlessly with powerful board members and city leaders (to wit, her poised and polished interview with Tanji Patton for KLRNís ďConversationsĒ series). But on the DL, this Piney Woods native has wrangled City ordinances, organized sensitive artists, managed crazy expectations, and has quietly and constantly pushed for greener and more sustainable choices in our River Re-Development. Kimís got eco-cred, smarts, and isnít afraid to ger her hands dirty. I caught up with Ms. Abernethy by phone on Friday.

Kim Abernethy: (Laughing) Iíve got my PR person here with me so if I say anything wrong, she can slap me.

San Antonio Current: Karen [Adams] is with you? What are yíall doing?

KA: Weíre shopping together at Costco. Weíve got all the artists coming in [for the opening next week], and weíve got a bank of rooms at the Trop[icana], and weíre gonna put some snacks in there, stuff like that.

SAC: You donít have, say, interns to do that?

KA: No! Well, we do, but we like to come to Costco. Itís serious Executive Director stuff (laughs).

SAC: Now that weíre in countdown mode, with the opening just days away, whatís been the biggest surprise to you?

KA: Ö.How all the art mixes in with the water. Weíve been looking at this channel with no water in it, the artists have been looking at this channel with no water in it, but then when we put the water back in last week, I saw that all their art has just changed for the better with the water, I didnít realize how much they were all getting it! Itís fabulous to see the interplay between the water, the architecture, the design, and the art. Thatís been a real surprise.

SAC: What do you think this is going to mean for the cityóart-wise, socially?

KA: I think itís gonna be huge. We got an inkling of that Wednesday night when we lit the [Donald Lipski fish installation under I-35], we had about 150 people there just by word of mouth, it was unbelievable. Itís really gonna jump-start the whole city of San Antonio thinking about public art.

Lipski's F.I.S.H.

SAC: Now has this jump-started you into being excited about the Misison Reach? Whatís happening next, for you, after this opening?

KA: The Mission Reach, weíre working on it already. I think what weíre doing with the Museum Reach will help us raise funds for the Mission Reach. The Museum reach is 1.4 miles, but we have 8 more miles to go, in the Misison Reach! The possibilities are just endless. Weíre already working with the county and with the city in developing parkland, already working on the public art.

SAC: Whatís your educational background? Iím curious.

KA: My degreeís in Social Work, and Iíve done that. Been in non-profits for years. I was involved with the Cibolo Nature Center for seven years, thatís where my environmentalism comes in. But until now, Iíve never been immersed in the art world. That has just been fabulous. San Antonioís art community is wonderful, the people are so warm, and thatís been a wonderful surprise.

SAC: What would you like people to know about the River Re-Development that you think they might not know?

KA: Well, dealing with these 8 artists, there could have been a lot of drama, a lot of competition, a lot of ego, and there just wasnít. The artists really like and respect each other, and everybody working on this project have developed close relationships. Thatís not something that people would know, but I think it comes through in how all the art works together. And the artists are each so great and committed to the projeect; we have a fundraising event on the 30th, and [each artist] wanted to donate a piece to raise funds. We meet people all the time who want to get involved in the project, Iíve been surprised by how excited people are.

SAC: Okay, final question. Is Mikeís hair real?(Authorís note: Mike Addkison, the Architecture and Art Program Director for the SanAntonio River Foundation, has nearly waist-length dreadlocks).

KA: (laughing) Yes! Yes, itís real. Heís been growing it since he was 18 or 19 years old. When Mike came in to interview with me, I told him, ĎI want you to come back and meet with some board members, butí óyou know how he wears that bandanna on his head?óI said, Ďyou canít wear that rag on your head to meet the board!í And he said, ĎYou know what? I already cut three inches off of my hair for this interview!í (Laughs.) But yeah, itís real. Iíve seen him without the kerchief on!

Posted by sarah fisch on 5/27/2009 12:26:06 PM
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