Courtesy / Victoria Flores, April Garcia, and Benito Martinez at UTSA College of Architecture
San Antonians looking to flaunt their Tricentennial spirit may have to wait a few more weeks as Tricentennial Commission and City officials work to finalize details for the merchandise store opening at Centro de Artes.
While commemorative Tricentennial merchandise, including T-shirts and bumper stickers, is already available for purchase online, the brick-and-mortar shop with expanded offerings won’t open for at least several more weeks despite the New Year’s Eve kickoff of the yearlong celebration.
Laura Lopez, a Tricentennial spokesperson with KGBTexas Communications, confirmed that partners must work out some details before construction can begin.
But Councilman Roberto Treviño (D1) says it will be worth the wait.
“It was in works early spring  to do the store, and the design was basically calling for typical department-store shelves and garment racks,” he said. “I felt like that was sending the wrong message for Centro de Artes, so we put a pause on it.”
Since then, five teams of students from the University of Texas at San Antonio’s School of Architecture, under the direction of Assistant Professor Sue Ann Pemberton, have been creating new store designs.
“The reason to do this is because of all the work we’ve done that goes way back to when we reestablished Centro de Artes and what it should mean in our community,” Treviño said. “For the store, what we have to be mindful of is how we execute – It is important. What we’ve achieved here is thoughtful and beautiful, and the way we went about it is both effective and efficient, and I think [that] in itself is a model of what the Tricentennial is about – the bringing together of great resources in our community.”
Treviño, an architect by trade, served as a judge for the student competition along with Debbie Racca-Sittre, director of the City’s Department of Arts & Culture, which also manages programming for Centro de Artes.
UTSA architecture student Benito Martinez’s design won the competition; Victoria Flores and April Garcia assisted with renderings and will help with building. Treviño said Martinez’s design is more fitting of a unique gallery space like Centro de Artes.
Racca-Sittre agreed. “They did a really good job. They all worked really hard with really neat concepts, but we had to select one. Now all of the students are working on this one design. They are actually [going to be] building it. … The design we picked is supposed to mimic the Mexican folklorico dresses and how they swirl.
“[Martinez’s design] really spoke to the mission of the building, of a center for Latino arts and culture.”
Centro de Artes is a two-story exhibit space located on the grounds of the Historic Market Square in downtown San Antonio’s Zona Cultural. The space is dedicated to telling the story of the Latino experience, with a focus on South Texas, through local and regional art, history, and culture, and by showcasing Latino artists and Latino-themed artwork.
Centro de Artes is also home to the San Antonio Tricentennial Commission offices.
Once complete, the merchandise shop will feature not only Tricentennial T-shirts, tote bags, and Fiesta medals, but also high-end gifts like those one would find in a museum gift shop, plus artwork and one-of-a-kind pieces created by local artists like Verónica Castillo and Diana Kersey.
“It’s a way to support artists because we buy from the artists,” Racca-Sittre said. “We are not making money; in fact we’ll probably lose money reselling the items and using the money to buy more. My department won’t be making any profit.”
“We’ve been working on them for eight months now and we’ve got 400 pieces made,” Zavala said of the traditional men’s dress shirts, bowties, and scarves he designed for the Tricentennial. “But we are on hold now waiting for the City to decide whether to move forward with it.”
Treviño said there is “good potential” for the shop to be up and running soon.
“There’s a lot of legal stuff to deal with, and we want to make sure – with the issues surrounding the Tricentennial – that we are following the process, and that’s critical to making sure there are no barriers in pushing this forward,” he said. “But as far as the major lifting goes, it’s been accomplished.”
Racca-Sittre also hopes the merchandise store will become a visitor center and gift shop for Centro de Artes long after 2018.
In the meantime, an exhibit featuring selections from the UTSA art collection, curated by Arturo Infante Almeida, will open Feb. 8 on the first and second floors of Centro de Artes and continue through June 10.
Others from UTSA involved in the project include faculty members Armando Araiza and Diane Hays; and students Phu Trinh, Luis Victoria, Michel Sanchez, Benjamin Locher and Isaiah Olivo.