From trash to treasure: The BBG art collection

May 4, 2020

One of the largest, most-visible pieces of the BioBridge Global art collection started out as trash.

“Shrine,” which hangs on the north wall of the Headquarters Building lobby, is made from 21 student desks that artist Henry Rayburn discovered in a dumpster behind a school. Rayburn bolted the pieces together, overlaying them with images of the Alamo, and it has been part of the art collection since the building opened in 1996.

That art collection – which expanded when the Donor Pavilion opened in 2008 – was a major part of a vision for a new facility that originated in the early 1990s. 

“We sat down with the leadership and said the building just can’t be a building,” said Tim Blonkvist, architect with Overland Partners, which designed the facility. “The building had to reflect the purpose, mission and culture of this organization.”

Part of that was a desire to engage with local artists. A committee from the blood bank, Overland Partners and the San Antonio arts community put out a call for artwork; each artist was asked to submit 20 slides of his or her work for consideration.

The original budget was $100,000. By Blonkvist’s estimates, the organization wound up with $1 million in art because the artists “believed in what the organization was doing to save lives in the community,” he said.

Community leaders, employees and the artists came together for a grand opening in 1994, and the building turned out to be a revelation.

“They were so surprised at the beauty of the building, but also at the incredible art,” Blonkvist said.

The leaders were so impressed that the city instituted a program called “One Percent for the Arts,” in which 1% of a public building’s construction budget would be reserved for art.

The newly renamed South Texas Blood & Tissue Center’s 1% had a distinct theme: Taking discarded objects and extending their lives or creating new life, just as the organization seeks to save and enhance lives with donated cells and tissue.

That’s what spurred Rayburn to pick up 21 discarded school desks.

“Artists find beauty and new life in materials that others may discard,” Rayburn said in an art collection guide published in 2008. “’Shrine’ had brought more attention to my work than anything I’ve ever created.”

Architect Tim Blonkvist take a tour of the BBG art collection with Belinda Flores from STBTC:

Learn more about each piece in the BBG art collection:

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