Rachel Kamata Lights Up Whataburger Downtown

Candles and Christmas trees aren’t the only ones getting lit this holiday season. If you haven’t stopped by Whataburger’s downtown location, you are missing out on a wonderful work of art designed by San Antonio’s very own Rachel Kamata. Unfiltered SA had the chance to talk to Kamata and San Antonio artist and mentor Alex Rubio a bit about Kamata’s latest commission for Whataburger and her artistic journey with the MOSAIC Student Art Program at Blue Star Contemporary. Kamata might still be in high school, but she demonstrates the maturity and skill-level to play in the artistic big-leagues.

Installation image of Rachel Kamata’s artwork. Photo taken by and courtesy of Whataburger Corp.

The lively design titled Light Fiber is a “W” shaped vinyl mural with LED lights extending eight feet across Whataburger’s windows in downtown San Antonio. Kamata strays away from traditional symbolism and imagery to focus on abstraction and geometric design, which, according to Rubio, alludes to her “advanced level of design planning.” Accompanying the vinyl mural are two LED light strips that line the entire inside of the restaurant and glow outwards. Working primarily with Adobe Illustrator, Kamata said: “it was an amazing experience going from that small scale to the 8-foot windows.”

Kamata shared how she learned a lot from her first commission with the Whataburger Corp. After months of going back and forth altering designs to see what the client wanted, and what they wanted to show the community, Rachel Kamata said it was a great experience she would like to do again. Rubio mentioned that it was a “real-world experience having Rachel collaborate with the client/corporation directly. It shows Rachel’s flexibility, creativity, and ability to collaborate.” He continued saying he mentored and offered design tips, as well as different color compositions. But beyond that, it was all Rachel! This commission has shown her flexibility and creativity to put various elements together and present a design where everyone is satisfied. But how did this commission come to be?

“Over the years, [MOSAIC] has worked with many corporate clients and collaborated with other non-profit arts organizations and quite a few private clients who are always seeking new contemporary public art and artwork for their collections. Whataburger Corp. reached out and asked [MOSAIC] to produce designs for their Light Up San Antonio event,” shared Alex Rubio.

Left to Right: Juan Zavala Castro, Mari Hernandez, Alex Rubio, Rachel Kamata, Mary Heathcott, Elaine Leahy, Jacqueline Saragoza McGilvray, Keeton Foreman, Stephen Sumrall-Orsak
Photo taken by and courtesy of Whataburger Corp.

It was Kamata’s natural sense of composition and design, as well as her vast experience with the MOSAIC Student Art Program, which led her to be chosen as the Lead Designer in this commission. “She started in 8th grade and has been with [MOSAIC] all throughout high school. Over the years, she has exhibited quite a few works in our MOSAIC gallery at Blue Star Contemporary and has actually sold a few of her own works. It goes into building the student’s portfolio and CV.” added Rubio. 

Rachel Kamata and Alex Rubio
Photo taken by and courtesy of Whataburger Corp.

MOSAIC students are exposed to a combination of studio practice and to the business side of art. As Mary Heathcott, Director of Blue Star Contemporary, states on their website “BSC is committed to giving MOSAIC students free access to quality arts education, encouraging high standards of achievement, and fostering excellence and leadership.” Rubio added, “we identify students as MOSAIC student designers. These students are very serious about pursuing their careers in the arts or just naturally talented and gifted people. They will benefit from an early exhibition experience and early design experience in the community.”

Her first hands-on mural project with MOSAIC was Dream Peace, located on the east-facing walls of the Coleman Bridge underpass. She admitted she didn’t know what to expect but she was eager to get involved. Her involvement with MOSAIC has surpassed expectations. In MOSAIC’s latest public artwork, El Legado de Nuestra Jornada – The Legacy of our Journey at the Historic Outdoor Art Museum in New Braunfels, TX, Alex Rubio selected Rachel Kamata as one of four mural lead assistants. With a mural 12ft high and 60 ft wide, it was no easy task but “these are the leadership titles and experiences that colleges and universities and future clients are looking for [in an artist],” shared Rubio.

Rachel Kamata
Photo taken by and courtesy of Whataburger Corp.

As to Whataburger’s title of Hometown Hero, Rachel Kamata is honored but feels undeserving of the title. Her humble demeanor speaks volumes of Kamata’s gratitude, maturity, and desire to continue learning. Even though this commissioned public project is temporary, Kamata hopes that people will remember her work. Rubio adds, “[MOSAIC students] are taught to collaborate and communicate with each other as a team. They get to inspire others through their work and murals. Remaining humble during their early development, I am sure will carry throughout [Kamata’s] career. Being a strong, confident, and creative individual, I’m sure she will continue to stay humble with her collector base, client base, and organization.”

Whataburger was so satisfied with the final design that during the mural’s unveiling they offered Kamata an additional scholarship to use for anything she’d like. She will be using the funds to purchase a laptop for college to continue developing her digital art practice. And, of course, the laptop will come in handy when she collaborates with mentors and artists across the nation and the world.

Rachel Kamata receiving a scholarship check at the unveiling.
Photo taken by and courtesy of Whataburger Corp.

“It was a great experience working with her. She is very organized and very creative,” stated Rubio. He continued saying, “when you can inspire your mentor after all these years, it shows we are ready to continue on alternative materials and challenging large scale formats and flexibility in scale and medium.” And we can say for certain, Rubio is not the only one she is inspiring. If you have been inspired and your face lit up as you saw Rachel Kamata’s artwork at Whataburger downtown, go vote in Mayor Nirenberg’s Light Up Downtown Holiday Contest. The deadline to vote is Thursday, December 19th!

412 E. Commerce St
San Antonio, Texas

Author: Deliasofia Zacarias

Deliasofia Zacarias is one of the Unfiltered San Antonio co-founders. Double-majored in business and studio art, Zacarias is interested in art politics, food, and a whole lot of Netflix. She is currently LACMA's Emerging Art Professional Fellow in Los Angeles, CA.

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