Westside San Antonio ‘tamale house’ to become art studio – mySA

After being an “on-and-off” artist the past couple of decades, Cristina Sosa Noriega fully committed to her craft when she left her job in education about a year ago. Now, Noriega’s working hard to open a new artist studio in the heart of the Westside.

“I finally have committed,” Noriega says with a laugh. “It’s been a really transformational year.”

A San Antonio native who focuses on portraits and murals, Noriega says opportunities over the last year, including a piece dedicated to Uvalde victim Amerie Jo Garza, allowed her to meet different artists in need of a studio. Luckily for her, Noriega came across a distinguished Westside property where she plans to make it all happen.

This spring, Noriega will unveil Palacio de Palomas, a collective art studio and gallery space.

“It literally looks like a palace. It looks like a Barbie dream house. It sticks out big time for the neighborhood,” she says, noting that it looks similar to many homes in Mexico. “It’s also because there were a hundred doves living in the attic.”

The view from the chandelier at Palacio de Palomas. 

The view from the chandelier at Palacio de Palomas. 

Cristina Sosa Noriega

Transforming the Tamale House

Noriega bought the 2,800 square-foot property (at 603 S. San Joaquin Ave. San Antonio, TX 78237) in December 2022, but is making quick progress in restoring the space, which she says hadn’t been used in about a year.

Noriega says the property was a former home of the family behind San Antonio chain Delicious Tamales. During the buying process, she says she was able to meet many of the family members, who attended Kennedy High School like her husband.

“One of the sons says his parents drove [the chandeliers] in their station wagon across the border, I can totally picture that in my head,” she says. “If only these walls could talk.”

Known as the “tamale house” to many in the neighborhood, Noriega appreciates the distinctive character of the home such as the different sized doors and steps. Still, she has the studio in mind with choices like removing vinyl tile and opting for a stained concrete floor. As is, Noriega says the space is stunning with its bounty of windows and access to natural light.

“Immediately, you get a feeling when you walk in,” she says.

This spring, artist Cristina Sosa Noriega will unveil Palacio de Palomas, a collective art studio and gallery space.

This spring, artist Cristina Sosa Noriega will unveil Palacio de Palomas, a collective art studio and gallery space.

Cristina Sosa Noriega

A creative can’t home for artists

Noriega wants the other resident artists to have a similar feeling in the space. One local artist, Southwest School of Art instructor Lacey B. Mills, has already committed to making Palacio de Palomas their artistic home, and Noriega is eager to round out a diversity of artists. Eventually, Noriega wants the in-house artists to set up a schedule of classes for each of them to be able to share their craft with community members.

“I want to bring more people to this community and bring more events,” she says.

Additionally, Noriega wants to be able to host outside events at Palacio de Palomas. Though she doesn’t plan to officially debut the space until April or May, there’s already an event on the calendar. Featuring the work of Del Rio artist Cris Escobar, a fundraiser event will benefit Escobar’s daughter, Krystina Escobar Pacheco. The young woman, who resides in Pleasanton, had complications after giving birth last year and developed toxic shock syndrome, leading to her hands and feet being amputated. All proceeds from the February 11 event will benefit Pacheco.

“Even though [Escobar is] not a studio artist, he’s somebody that I know,” Noriega says. “As artists we want to help each other. There is a community.”

Noriega’s plan is to include and give back to the community as much as possible, especially by being a presence on the Westside.

The four-bedroom, two-bathroom home previously belonged to the family behind Delicious Tamales.

The four-bedroom, two-bathroom home previously belonged to the family behind Delicious Tamales.

Cristina Sosa Noriega

The space is filled with natural light and will be available for artists' use later this spring. 

The space is filled with natural light and will be available for artists’ use later this spring. 

Cristina Sosa Noriega

A look inside Palacio de Palomas. Courtesy Cristina Sosa Noriega.

“The location is very meaningful because there isn’t something this far west but yet still within the heart of the Westside,” she says, noting how many of the Westside’s cultural attributes are close to downtown. “I want to bring new audiences, new people here to see how beautiful it is and how much there is to appreciate here.”

As she continues to furnish the space and prepare for its opening this spring, she’s ready to share Palacio de Palomas with San Antonio. Anyone who wants to tour the space can simply direct message her on Instagram to do so.

“I feel so lucky that I got this place,” she says. “I know it’s going to have a very vibrant future.”

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