Louis Vega Treviño, in his studio, is the artist behind a special version of Restored by Light at Mission San Juan on Friday night. Credit: Nicholas Frank / San Antonio Report

Restored By Light events have quickly become a tradition in San Antonio, with the first at Mission San José in 2016, and events there and at Mission Concepción since. For the Tricentennial year, Councilwoman Rebecca Viagran (D3) and the Office of Historic Preservation wanted to illuminate the surfaces of other missions.

On Friday, Mission San Juan will host another Restored By Light, but this time with a twist and a new subtitle: Reinspired. 

There is no historical evidence that colorful, patterned frescoes once adorned San Juan’s surfaces, unlike at Concepción and San José, said Shanon Miller, director of the Office of Historic Preservation. The first Restored by Light video projections at those missions in 2016 and 2017 depicted renderings of what are believed to be original frescoes decorating the church facades.

The City turned to artist Louis Vega Treviño, known for his colorful, pattern-based paintings and drawings, to create a visual spectacle to be projected on the San Juan church.

“I’ve always been interested in drawing patterns,” Treviño said. “I’m constantly drawing, even right now I’m drawing,” he said during an interview Wednesday at his studio near San Pedro Springs park.

Of being freed from the historical interpretation undergirding the previous Restored By Light events, Miller said, “We’re definitely having more fun with it.”

Treviño said Jimmy LeFlore, director of Public Art San Antonio, was familiar with his work and recommended him to the Office of Historic Preservation (OHP). Treviño’s designs had adorned kiosks in Main Plaza for a 2009 public art project. Scaling up his work then was interesting, he said, but he’s excited for the Restored By Light event because “I’ve always wanted to see these on such a big scale.”

Miller said in an email that “Louis was the perfect choice for the project, since he is known for his vivid pattern-making and hand-drawn aesthetic.”

Not only are Treviño’s intricate designs hand-drawn, they are done freehand, with no ruler or straight edge, and on any available paper surface, usually napkins or Post-it notes.

Treviño might be the perfect choice for the San Juan project in more ways than one. A San Antonio native, he is the son of a couple who was married by the pastor of Mission San Juan in 1971, he said, and his younger brother was baptized there in 1976. “I’ve always been connected there, and I’ve always been drawn to that mission,” he said.

He also was familiar with the historical mission frescoes of San José and Concepción, which he researched in the early 1990s while working for architecture firm Jones & Kell (now Muñoz & Company).

For the San Juan project, he was given an architectural schematic of the church surfaces onto which his patterns will be projected. Treviño estimated he gave the OHP nearly 20 drawings from which to choose. Even he does not know yet what the final Restored By Light: Reinspired projection animation will look like.

The final product is in the hands of Bo Mechinus, an Austin-based producer for Freeman, the global event technology company. DJ Steven Lee Moya provided a musical soundtrack that will be combined with Treviño’s visuals.

Mission Concepción is lit up to recreate the facade’s original designs during Restored By Light.
Images are projected onto the facade of Mission Concepción to recreate the church’s original designs during Restored By Light in 2017. Credit: Bonnie Arbittier / San Antonio Report

“This is definitely a modern-day interpretation,” Miller said. “We are putting a spin on the event by creating original designs that showcase the architecture of the mission,” she said.

Treviño expects the combination of music and geometric patterns projected on the historical facade will be exciting, and possibly more than entertaining. “If you’re a child and you see that, you might want to learn more about these buildings,” he said. “They might go deeper, you never know.”

As a busy working artist, husband, and father of two, Treviño hasn’t yet seen a Restored By Light event, so this will be his first. He plans to be there Friday, of course, but he’d better see this one.

“This will be the first and only time we will be doing it at this location,” said Ximena Copa-Wiggins, public relations manager for the Office of Historic Preservation.

Restored By Light: Reinspired takes place Friday, Oct. 12, at Mission San Juan, starting at 6 p.m. with activities for kids, food trucks, and tours of the mission. Organizers encourage families to bring a picnic and blankets to set out on the broad Mission lawn. The light projection will begin at dusk, approximately 7:45 p.m. The event is free and open to the public. More information is available here.

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Nicholas Frank

Senior Reporter 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...