UTSA faculty, students, and alumni transform vacant storefronts into works of art
By Jesus Chavez
Public Affairs Specialist
(March 12, 2014) -- The X Marks the Art program sponsored by Public Art San Antonio put out a challenge to local artists last fall: help us transform vacant downtown storefronts into lively galleries for public works of art using the theme “Light + Technology.” Since then, many area artists, among them a faculty member and nine alumni from The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) have showcased their vibrant mixed-media works throughout downtown San Antonio.
Taeg Nishimoto, professor of architecture in the UTSA College of Architecture, with assistance from Britta Moe, a master of architecture student, recently completed a temporary light and technology installation in the storefront of the Vistana building at 100 N. Santa Rosa St.
Nishimoto's installation, pictured above, is titled “Shorelines 2.” Inside the Vistana storefront are several large curtains of folded fabric surfaces made from recycled plastic bottles on which light is projected each night beginning at 7:30 p.m. Industrial fans blow against the fabric from behind, giving the illusion of floating clouds in the night sky. Nishimoto said the project will be on view for as little as 30 days or up to six months depending on the availability of the property.
“Our project is meant to create a sense of serenity in viewers, like that of rolling waves against a shoreline,” said Nishimoto, pictured at left. “The light and shadow produced by the work create a natural phenomena effect. The light is used as a way to associate with a larger natural environment; the movement creates a feeling of natural waves.”
The X Marks the Art program is currently exhibiting installations like Nishimoto's in vacant storefronts along Houston Street and Commerce Street in downtown San Antonio. Artists from across San Antonio have filled empty storefronts with colorful displays of light and technology as a way to make the environments more inviting and lively for pedestrians.
Photographer and videographer Jennelle Esparza '10, in collaboration with her partner Rigoberto Luna, is one of the nine UTSA alumni whose work is currently on display. Esparza and Luna's installation, “Above the Horizons and Below,” features videos of different Texas horizons against a backdrop of origami sculptures.
“Our work brings a very natural landscape to the urban downtown of San Antonio,” said Esparza, who graduated from UTSA with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Photography degree. "So far, we have shot video footage of the sunrise and sunset over Corpus Christi, and we have begun capturing footage of the moon over the ranch land in San Antonio. These two horizons, each representing our backgrounds, will coincide on the video monitors we have set up.”
In honor of the success of their “Light + Technology” series, Public Art San Antonio will host an X Marks the Art: Artist Showcase from 6 to 7:30 p.m. March 25 at the Public Art San Antonio Studio, 400 N. St. Mary’s St. Participating artists, including Nishimoto, Esparza and Luna, will give brief presentations about their installations.
Public Art San Antonio is a division of the San Antonio Department for Culture & Creative Development with the City of San Antonio. Through X Marks the Art, it aims to activate underutilized and vacant downtown properties by introducing new creative, dynamic and visually aesthetic installations downtown.
The program was launched in August 2011 in response to District 1 City Councilman Diego Bernal’s desire to create a downtown environment rich in opportunities and visitors alike to engage in cultural activities without needing to leave the city center. The storefront art program serves to promote this ideal while creating a safer environment for visitors and residents alike. For more information, visit www.publicartsa.com and www.xmarkstheart.com.