Bonnie Arbittier / Rivard Report
A statuette of the city’s namesake cast in aluminum, original pottery bearing silhouettes of the missions, the Alamo in a tiny snow globe. Various mementos of San Antonio history are now available at the official Tricentennial store, which opens its doors Friday at Centro de Artes.
The final touches were added Thursday afternoon at the store in the lobby of the Latino art, history, and culture gallery at the Historic Market Square. Shelves are now stocked with traditional souvenirs and classic logo gear, similar to the merchandise available online since last year, as well as the work of local artists celebrating San Antonio’s 300th year.
The Tricentennial Commission partnered with Visit San Antonio, which operates a souvenir shop downtown, to set up payment systems and staffing at the store. Starting Friday, it will be open Tuesdays through Sundays, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
But this is no ordinary gift shop. The store itself showcases the ingenuity of its creators, said Councilman Roberto Treviño (D1). An architect by trade, Treviño judged a student competition of designs last year for the space along with Debbie Racca-Sittre, director of the City’s Department of Arts & Culture, which also manages programming for Centro de Artes.
They chose a design by UTSA Department of Architecture student Benito Leon. A team that included fellow students Victoria Flores, Luis Victoria, April Garcia, Michel Sanchez, and Phu Trinh assisted with the overall concept.
“What you see at Centro de Artes is not a store but a collaborative work of art that architecture and design students who are learning to design and build things have produced,” Treviño said. “The fact is, they have done an amazing job because of their efforts, how well they worked together as a class, with the institution and with the city.”
The students also fabricated, assembled, and constructed the project on site with help from UTSA students Benjamin Locher, Isaiah Olivo, and Marcos Vizcaya. They were overseen by UTSA faculty members Sue Ann Pemberton, Armando Araiza, Diane Hays, and David Kraft.
“The concept was to emulate the movement of a ballet folklórico dress,” architecture student Luis Victoria stated in an email. “It took us close to three months and many iterations to finish designing what the overall look would be. The main idea we kept throughout the design was to have the shelves interconnected so it would be continuous in the space.”
That made the shelving project quite complex, Locher added, with a “pretty intense” labeling system during assembly. “I’m really excited to see people’s reactions,” he said. “The corner module definitely looked smaller on the ground so seeing it all together installed was impressive.”
Displayed on those unique shelves are the usual wares sought by tourists – brightly colored T-shirts and tote bags, coffee mugs, and shot glasses. There are tiny stuffed bears dressed in logo shirts, one-of-a-kind Fiesta Tricentennial medals, Los Barrios restaurant cookbooks, and holiday ornaments in the shape of the Alamo.
Along with those items, customers will find limited-edition replicas of Cakky Brawley’s public art piece, the St. Anthony de Padua statue that sits in Hemisfair, and 2018 wall calendars featuring linocut prints by Juan de Dios Mora.
Despite delays during design and construction of the store, Treviño called the final product “something that is both elegant and complex … that reflects our unique San Antonio culture.
“And it was done by some of these aspiring interior design and architecture students from our community that embrace the culture and history of our community. What a great statement that is. For them to build their careers on a legacy project makes a very bold statement.”
Funding for construction of the store and fixtures came from the San Antonio Tricentennial Commission budget. Plans call for the merchandise store to become a visitor center and gift shop for Centro de Artes once the Tricentennial year has passed.