Explaining “The Grotto” art installation in San Antonio, TX

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Need a place to walk your pup? The Museum Reach is dog-friendly. | 📸 : @SATXtoday team

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Have you ever wondered what this surrealistic cave-like structure is doing on the Museum Reach or how it came into existence?

No, it isn’t just some unexplainable natural phenomenon but rather one of San Antonio’s best-kept secrets hidden in plain sight — welcome to The Grotto.


Walk through too fast and you might miss this hidden gem. | 📸 : @SATXtoday team

What is it?

  • The Grotto is a public art installation + a permanent addition to the Museum Reach commissioned by the San Antonio River Foundation.
  • It was created by SATX-based, faux bois (false wood) concrete artist Carlos Cortés in 2009.
  • You can watch the creation of this work — including an action shot of Carlos enjoying a paleta — on YouTube.

What to look out for…

  • Father Nature’s Waterfall. Tucked away in a small nook you can find the (easily) most overlooked aspect of this sculpture.
  • Stalagmites and stalactites. Don’t forget to look up and around the “cave” to appreciate the masterful and eerily-realistic artificial atmosphere.
  • Faces on the walls. Ever heard of a Hidden Mickey? Make a game with your friends by trying to find as many faces as you can (bonus points if you can find the giant jaguar head).

Public art for public use…

  • The Grotto is not only an object to watch + take pictures of; it was also created with functionality in mind.
  • The three-story sculpture is a natural cooling area for visitors on the lowest level.
  • It also features benches, recessed lighting, and a picnic area that anyone is welcome to use.
  • Directly across the river on the street level you’ll find a palapa with benches sprouting from woodcarved in concrete, that is — where you can rest before heading on your way.

The Grotto also engages the auditory senses with the sounds of water. | 📸 : @SATXtoday team

Make sure to stop by this installation next time you’re around the Pearl District.

Bonus: Just a short walk away along the Museum Reach, you can find F.I.S.H. by Donald Lipski under the I-35 Overpass near Camden Street.

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