Quality of Life
In the Pursuit of Joy
Vice President of Cultural Placemaking at Centro San Antonio
Andrea (Andi) Rodriguez serves as Vice President of Cultural Placemaking at Centro San Antonio, leading the Art Everywhere Project. As the urban advocate of center city stakeholders, the Centro team serves as activators, connectors and strives to make downtown more beautiful, prosperous and playful.
From 2005-2016, Andi served as a freelance writer/weekly marketing columnist for the San Antonio Business Journal and in 2016 was appointed as the ‘Good Works’ columnist, sharing stories about those who do good in San Antonio until 2020. She was appointed as the Chair of the Mayor’s Commission on the Status of Women (2014-18) as a Bexar County Historical Commissioner (2015-16) as a member of the City of San Antonio Bond 2017 Facilities committee and as a SA Library Foundation Trustee.
With a passion for urban planning, Andi served as a city Planning Commissioner from 2008-16 (Chair Pro Tem 2011-16) on the San Pedro Creek committee and as the Founding Chair of the Hemisfair Conservancy (2014-18.) She currently serves as co-chair of Women’s Leadership Initiative for the SA chapter of the Urban Land Institute, on the board of directors for American Institute of Architects SA and as a City of San Antonio Arts Commissioner.
She has held executive trustee positions for various non-profit boards, including: the UT Health Science Center/MD Anderson Board of Governors; Southwest School of Art, Blue Star Contemporary, co-founder of the 501(c)3 Power of Preservation Foundation, as Vice President of Luminaria Arts Festival and as a board member of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.
Serving on the steering committee of Leadership San Antonio in 2008 and 2014, she was selected as Co-Chair of the LSA 44 class for 2019. Andi is a San Antonio Women’s Hall of Fame honoree, a Hispanic Chamber Honoree, A SA Business Journal Women’s Leadership honoree, named as the Catrina and as a Library Champion for the Library and is Past Chair of the UTHSC Mays Cancer Center Council. As an advocate and team co-founder of Equal PaySA, she has worked to arm women with advocacy and pay equity skills via workshops in the community.
Andi has a BS in Communications, a Masters of Science in Architecture with a core focus in urban planning, over 20 years of marketing, journalism and media relations experience and holds a Texas Real Estate License.
Andres Andujar is the driving force behind the community vision for the Hemisfair area redevelopment: to create one of the world’s great public places. This is being done by the transformation of the ’68 World’s Fair site into an urban district of multiple parks, residences and local businesses. Hemisfair is becoming sustainable, self-funded and filled with events authentic to San Antonio.
In addition to his work on the Hemisfair district, Andres helped develop a vision and coined River North for an area north of our downtown surrounding the Museum Reach of the Riverwalk extension that resulted in a 400-acre urban rezoning and the creation of a Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone. For that volunteer effort, Andujar was given an honorary title from the American Institute of Architects. Andres was named 2006 Downtowner of the Year by Centro’s predecessor, the Downtown Alliance, and was selected as one of San Antonio’s Visionaries in 2008. In 2017 the San Antonio Express News selected Andres as a Texas Powerbroker, and in 2018 Visit San Antonio recognized Andres with the Con Corazon award for his dedication and passion for making San Antonio a better place.
Andujar received his bachelor’s degree in architectural engineering from the University of Texas at Austin in 1980. His 30-year career in the private sector before Hemisfair includes design, construction, development and management experience of several billion dollars worth of projects around the US and abroad.
Denise Rodriguez-Hernandez is the owner of The Eatery Culinary Group and M-Pressed LLC, partner and operator of The Fruteria- Botanero and Vice President of Operations for True Flavors Catering. With over 25 years of experience in the food industry, Denise has worked with a wide range of companies marketing private-label brands, developing, and implementing strategic business plans, manufacturing, and leading substantial revenue and profit growth.
Denise’s love for business and the food industry was instilled in her by her parents Jesus and Patricia Rodriguez when she was only 10 years old while working in her parents Molino, a Mexican corn milling manufacturing plant in the Westside of San Antonio. By 1993, her family’s business expanded opening a catering company, and a larger food manufacturing plant that supplied tamales to local stores and businesses, and eventually supplying tamales all over the world including the White House.
By this time, Denise was handling all aspects of operations including payroll for over 200 employees, Human Resources and working weekends managing day-to-day operations at the family restaurant. While growing her family’s business they were featured as San Antonio’s top manufacturing plant in San Antonio by the San Antonio Express News.
Her experience in the family business led her to Daymon Worldwide where she joined as the youngest regional
manager for South Texas handling marketing and promotions for national brands throughout the state; with over 350 employees on her team. Within 2 years, Denise transferred to the brokerage side of the company and worked solely on developing private label brands for H-E-B grocery stores throughout Texas.
Denise joined her husband’s family business, True Flavors Catering, in 2008. She began by overseeing accounting, customer service, sales and marketing. Her role evolved to VP of Operations managing True Flavors growth through staff training, organizational development, benefits administration, leadership development and conflict resolution. Denise believes the key to success for the business has been “the empowerment of great people to take risks, lead change and make a difference.” During this time, True Flavors was awarded “best catering company in San Antonio.”
In 2012, Denise joined her brother-in-law Chef Johnny Hernandez as a partner of The Fruteria-Botanero by Chef
Johnny Hernandez. Her role was key in supporting Johnny’s vision to bring the concept to life and carry out all the operational needs for the restaurant including hiring, training, staff development, HR duties and marketing outreach.
In 2013, Denise was instrumental in the partnership between Chef Johnny Hernandez and HMS HOST International to expand the Chef’s brands into airport concessions. She helped successfully carry out all the contractual agreements and together they now operate 7 units within the San Antonio & Houston airport to include La Gloria Street foods, The Fruteria, Mission City Icehouse, Steak and Shake, Auntie Anne’s Pretzels and La Tapenade.
Most recently, Denise became the owner of M-Pressed, LLC, a commercial laundry company that launders and presses linens. In her role, she provides daily oversight of operations to include maintaining and controlling supply and linen inventories and wash and press services for all clients.
Celebrated San Antonio culinary and cultural ambassador Johnny Hernandez is a highly successful chef, restaurateur, author, television personality, arts emissary, entrepreneur, and philanthropist. Hernandez jettisoned onto the national culinary scene more than a dozen years ago and has since come to be regarded as a true Texas treasure, renowned for his culinary skills and high standards, as well as his highly successful group of popular restaurants and culinary enterprises. Widely considered the nation’s premier chef specializing in authentic interior Mexican cuisine, as well as a gastronomic gamer-changer and eminent authority on Mexican cooking and culture, Hernandez works, hands-on, at the helm of an ever-evolving Texas culinary arts empire: Grupo La Gloria, a diverse and growing collection of signature restaurants and culinary projects. Hernandez was also an integral part in San Antonio being designated a UNESCO World Heritage Creative City of Gastronomy.
A patron of the arts, dedicated to community sustainability and the fostering of local talent and local youth, Hernandez is dedicated to showcasing the work of local and Mexican artists in all his restaurants, products, and projects. Hernandez is also the founder and host of the largest Day of the Dead celebration in the United States, including an enormous lighted night parade attracting more than 150,000 visitors each year, and this year broadcast on NBCUniversal’s Peacock television throughout the United States and Mexico. Hernandez has hosted this brilliant River Walk spectacle for four years, drawing from the design and artistry of Mexican artists and craftsman from Mexico City and San Antonio to create unique and colorful river barges.
Chef Hernandez also hosts San Antonio’s large annual benefit, The Paella Challenge, which is an event that raises scholarship funds for young cooks and future chefs through the Kitchen Campus Foundation.
With exciting projects in the works for new culinary concepts in locations across the city and state, Hernandez is one of the hardest-working, happiest chefs in Texas, forever giving back to his hometown community that has so generously opened their hearts to him.
Since September 2021, Blair Thompson has served as the Chief Executive Officer of Roy Maas Youth Alternatives (RMYA), a 45-year-old nonprofit organization in San Antonio and Boerne that serves abused, neglected, and exploited children and youth. Prior to his installation as CEO at RMYA, Blair spent 9-years as the Managing Director of the Children’s Bereavement Center – a San Antonio nonprofit specializing in expressive art therapies to help children who are grieving the death of a loved one. There, he guided the organization’s growth from budgeted revenue and expenses of $1million to $3.3million, and six employees to 28 employees across three (3) South Texas campuses. Blair has also held senior management and executive level business development/fundraising positions with Alpha Home and Family Service Association. Before transitioning his career to the nonprofit sector, Blair served the United Methodist Church for 15 years following his graduation from Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary. He was the founding Pastor of Spring Creek United Methodist Church in Fair Oaks Ranch, TX from 1998-2006, and today remains an ordained elder in the United Methodist Church.
Blair married wife Maggie in 2010 and together they have three children: Forrest (34), Claire (31) and Luke (19). They also have three grandchildren Charlie (4 yo) and Jayne (3 yo), and Ella (1 month!).
Claudia de Vasco
Executive Artistic Director
Prior to stepping into her position at The Public Theater of San Antonio, Claudia was the Head of Cultural Integrity at BrickHouse Talent, a new division representing cultural workers in order to support inclusion and diversity efforts in Hollywood. She served as Managing Director of Emerging Arts Leaders/Los Angeles, leading the organization through a two year merging process with renown non-profit Arts for LA. She served as
the Artistic Producing Director for Chalk Repertory after years of working with the company on their site-specific theater productions, and worked as a member of several theater companies in the Los Angeles Area, and served on the Board of Directors at Theatre of NOTE. Though she worked as an arts leader offstage, as producer and director at times, she also had an extensive career as a performer: as a TV/film actress
(selected credits: Gilmore Girls, Jane the Virgin), Stage actress (selected credits: San Diego Repertory, Independent Shakespeare Co., MixedBlood, Disneyland Parks), and voiceover (Selected Credits: Grand Theft Auto, Disneyland Parks). In Hollywood and theater she was a Dialect Coach and language consultant, having coached actors such as Antonio Banderas, Juliette Binoche, America Ferrera, Liam Hemsworth, and Kit
Harrington, among others. Claudia has been a guest lecturer, associate professor, and/or teacher at University of California – San Diego, CalState Northridge, University of Southern California, University of Texas – Austin, as well as the Faculty Head of Speech at the Stella Adler Academy of Acting in Hollywood. She is a member of The Kilroys, a national group of theater women working to promote gender parity in American Theater.
In 2006, Claudia was a recipient of the Jerome Foundation’s Many Voices Fellowship as the Minneapolis Playwright’s Center. She received her BFA from the acting program at The Guthrie Theater, and is an alum of the High School for the Performing & Visual Arts in Houston, Texas. Claudia is a union member of Actors Equity Association, Screen Actors Guild, and a member of Women of Color in The Arts, and Hispanic Women’s
Network of Texas.
Claudia’s additional work experience includes working on TV Production, Co-founder of now dissolved Ideation Creative Media Marketing Agency, Field Producer of the Zocalo Public Square Lecture Series, and NPR Host of Zocalo Radio under NPR affiliate KPCC. Her government and politics experience includes having organized two political campaigns and having served as an elected leader on her Neighborhood Council in Los Angeles, serving at the Chair of Arts & Culture in Silver Lake, and Vice Chair of the Council. This work led her to work at the City of Los Angeles in the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment, also known as EmpowerLA.
Claudia has been a featured speaker on the podcast “Of course: Conversations on Leadership,” podcast “The Success Diaries,” as part of the WTF – Women’s Theater Festival, and panels through VASTA – Voice and Speech Teachers Association, Unnamed Theatre Project, The SAG/AFTRA Conservatory, among others.
Suhail Arastu was raised in San Antonio, Texas and studied Neurobiology & Classics at The University of California, Berkeley where he competed as an NCAA Gymnast. In Philadelphia he began graduate studies before moving to a small Japanese mountain village for a year of contemplation, deep sea fishing, hiking, skiing and teaching. He then travelled the world by ship under the auspices of the United Nations Economic & Social Council before returning home in 2008. Suhail works in Institutional Advancement for Musical Bridges Around the World, a non-profit performing arts company charged to unite, educate and inspire through culturally diverse visual and performing arts. He served two terms as a Trustee of The Mind Science Foundation, one term on the Board of Directors of Gemini Ink and is the Arts & Culture Chair for Anuja San Antonio – the organization managing San Antonio’s Sister City Relations with Chennai, India. Suhail is the Mayor’s appointee to the Public Art Commission and enjoys serving on the Board of Directors of Constitution Cafe & The Lone Star Art Alliance. He was elected to Class XL of Leadership San Antonio and completed a Marshall Memorial Fellowship in Spring of 2018; in August of the same year he was appointed to serve on the Board of Sister Cities International, a Washington DC based organization that grew out of the League of Cities under President Eisenhower. Suhail was named 40 Under 40 by the Business Journal in 2020. He leads Yoga privately and at Yoga in Motion while serving on the Advisory Council of International Yoga Day – a declaration adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 2014. A collection of Suhail’s photographs from seven continents was shown at PechaKucha Volume 5.