Art in Architecture in the new Federal Courthouse in San Antonio

March 24, 2022

Dueling Pendants by Thomas Glassford
Dueling Pendants by Thomas Glassford

Did you know that GSA has an Art in Architecture (AiA) program that allows us to showcase museum-quality artworks in federal buildings, courthouses, and land ports of entry nationwide? And did you know that we are always looking for artists who are interested in being considered for AiA commissions? In fact, GSA encourages artists to join our National Artist Registry. The registry is a database of American artists who have submitted their materials to be reviewed by GSA panels for possible selection for an AiA commission. Joining the registry makes you eligible for the next GSA art opportunity!

The goal of the AiA program is to create a lasting cultural legacy for the nation by incorporating artwork into the design of federal construction projects. Artists who receive GSA commissions work with the project architects and others as members of a design team to ensure that the artworks are meaningfully integrated into the overall building project. The program is made possible by reserving one-half of one percent (0.5%) of a project's estimated construction cost for art.

Two beautiful examples of newly commissioned artworks are located in the recently completed U.S. Courthouse in San Antonio, Texas. Laredo-born artist Thomas Glassford designed the twin suspended sculptures titled Dueling Pendants. The exterior, gilded-bronze sculpture descends from the roofline in front of the building, while its interior counterpart comprises a string of colorful glass forms that drop from the atrium ceiling. The two parts of Dueling Pendants are an abstract reference to the scales of justice, and so are perfectly suited for a federal courthouse.

The second Glassford artwork, titled Riparian Nexus, is a large mural in the courthouse atrium that reflects elements of San Antonio's landscape, including the building's location along San Pedro Creek. This mural is an abstract representation of the city waterways, and historical and present-day roadways. U.S. District Judge Xavier Rodriguez, who helped lead the effort for the construction of the new courthouse, said that, for him, the water-themed mural represents the idea of "letting justice flow like rivers of righteousness."

colorful abstract mural representing San Antonio's water ways
Riparian Nexus byThomas Glassford

GSA-commissioned artworks become part of a building's legacy to be enjoyed by the public for decades to come. Instructions for joining the GSA National Artist Registry and other related information are available at the following links:

GSA is also seeking comments on how the AiA program engages underserved communities during our art-commissioning process. Our goal is to increase the size and diversity of the pool of artists competing for AiA commissions. To help us with these efforts, please provide your feedback on the new federal rule. Public comments are due by April 4, 2022.

Last Reviewed: 2022-03-28