Restored by Light, with art created by Louis Vega Treviño, is projected on to Mission San Juan.
Restored by Light: Reinspired, with art created by Louis Vega Treviño, is projected on the wall of Mission San Juan's church. Credit: Bonnie Arbittier / San Antonio Report

On a pleasant fall evening, Restored By Light: Reinspired filled the normally blank white wall of the Mission San Juan church with a spectacle of colorful, video-projected patterns.

Unburdened by historical evidence of frescoes that once decorated the outer surfaces of Missions Concepción and San José, the City’s Office of Historic Preservation turned the walls of the old mission church over to present-day San Antonio artist Louis Vega Treviño, to meld his vivid, patterned designs with the 287-year-old mission church architecture.

“Tonight is all about art and imagination and creativity,” said Jennifer Hay, Office of Historic Preservation senior management analyst. Hay acknowledged the long history of the mission grounds as a gathering place and linked the night’s event with “an incredible continuum of humanity.”

An estimated audience of 1,500 filled the lawn, with picnic baskets, camp chairs and pets in tow. A row of food trucks provided refreshments while DJ Steven Lee Moya warmed up the crowd.

At 8 p.m., after a welcome announcement by Office of Historic Preservation Director Shanon Miller, the church surface went blank, and silence from the PA system hushed the assembly.

A black-and-white outline pattern soon filled the blank wall of the San Juan church, replaced by intermittent shapes in colors that Treviño, a San Antonio native, said were inspired by Fiesta.

Moya’s soundtrack also stayed close to home, alternating cumbia, country classics and corridos, seamlessly weaving Emilio Navaira, the Texas Tornadoes, and George Strait with salsa beats and conjunto rhythms.

Local luminaries present for the event included legendary San Antonio architect Chris Carson, principal of Ford, Powell and Carson. The linear architecture of the San Juan church created a “broad palette” for artists Treviño and regular Restored By Light video animator Bo Mechinus to work with, Carson said, as Mechinus “free-styled” Treviño’s designs, including a tiling of 22 hand-inked cocktail napkin designs Treviño had given him.

Mayor Ron Nirenberg appeared at 9 p.m. to wish San Antonio its customary Tricentennial “Happy Birthday” and said Miller and the Office of Historic Preservation are making sure “the whole world knows what San Antonio is all about.”

Before the show, Josh Stringer, deputy chief of interpretation and education for the San Antonio Missions National Historical Park, said he was pleased to have met a few sixth-generation San Antonians in the audience.

Reflecting on the meaning of the Restored By Light events, Stringer said, “There’s a linkage to the communities of old and the communities of today.”

The next Restored By Light event is scheduled for March 22 at Mission San José.

Nicholas Frank

Nicholas Frank moved from Milwaukee to San Antonio following a 2017 Artpace residency. Prior to that he taught college fine arts, curated a university contemporary art program, toured with an indie rock...