Luminaria Returns With a Bold New Vision for San Antonio

Mural by LA’s The Date Farmers - COURTESY
Courtesy
Mural by LA’s The Date Farmers

With March, there came rain, but no Luminaria. Months passed, and some gave up hope that the annual festival would return to San Antonio's cultural landscape. But on November 7 and 8, Luminaria comes back for its seventh year with bold intentions.

Historically, Luminaria has been an ever-shifting entity. Mayor Phil Hardberger originated the festival in 2008 as a one-night celebration of work created by San Antonio artists. The event continued to pop up in various locations downtown for three years, before settling into Hemisfair Park from 2011 to 2013. This year, Luminaria returns to the street as artists from all over the world descend upon San Antonio to revel in the city's position as a cultural crossroads between North and South America.

Luminaria 2014 reaches from Central Library and the Southwest School of Art all the way to the new Tobin Center for the Performing Arts and the River North Extension. This expanse of urban landscape becomes a central aspect of the experience. Creative Director Noah Khoshbin believes this year will hearken back to the original spirit of Luminaria because of it. "The synergy on the street is going to be different than past Luminarias," he explains. "It will be epic in terms of the scale. We're really working on three levels, which is the river, then we come up to street level and then we come up to work on the facades. It's a vertical energy."

This vertical energy, this looking upward or forward, is ever-present at the festival. No matter your position within the footprint, you're looking up. On the river, you're watching the artists above you; on the street, your gaze drifts to the 30-foot projections and murals that surround you. This upward movement can be said of Luminaria's creative team itself—constantly looking ahead, thinking about San Antonio's position as a global platform.

Work by Mexico's Dr. Larka - COURTESY
Courtesy
Work by Mexico's Dr. Larka

Luminaria is not the only organization looking forward. The Western Arts Alliance, a consortium of professional performing artists within the western United States chose San Antonio as the site for this year's WAA Institute program, The Emerging Latin Majority (November 5-9). Because The Emerging Latin Majority takes place within the same time and space as Luminaria, the curators chose to converge with the Institute's theme in regards to the selected artists. Khoshbin says of the city, "you can look at [San Antonio] geopolitically, as obviously we're in the southern United States, or you can look at it in another way—that we're the northernmost city in a trajectory south into South America." With this in mind, he carefully curated a group of national and international artists that would build upon those themes. These selected artists have shown at places such as the Tate Modern (Dr. Lakra), Fondation Cartier pour l'Art Contemporain (Basko Vazko), and the Venice Biennale (Wilfredo Prieto), and include what Khoshbin calls the "most important street muralists in the world."

Locally, Ethel Shipton considered the theme and created a list of criteria for potential participants. The criteria included: past participation in the festival, a demonstrated history of moving the community forward, work that would resonate within the urban environment and work history outside of the city. She notes, "Everybody seems to be doing things intensely in San Antonio and just as intensely outside of San Antonio. So they too are becoming national and international, not just local. So it seems the parameters are starting to be blurred of local/national/international artists."

Once Luminaria is over, the artists' imprint will not be forgotten. Highlighted works will remain as "legacy works," becoming "cultural assets of San Antonio." Khoshbin furthers, "Luminaria is giving back to the city of San Antonio and also the arts organizations in San Antonio, so that these works become a cultural magnet."

Luminaria promises two jam-packed evenings filled with multisensory delight. The following breakdown highlights installations from each level of the experience. To find the full schedule, including an interactive map, visit luminariasa.org.

Jimmy James Canales - COURTESY
Courtesy
Jimmy James Canales

The River Level

The River Walk's Museum Reach is not the picture of spacious strolling. "The river level poses a challenge," Khoshbin muses, "the walks are a little narrower—they're not as wide. So it became a challenge in terms of putting works on the river so that you could actually manage traffic flow."

With this in mind, Khoshbin focused on sound, bringing in Alvaro Ruiz and Hugo Navarro, two sound artists from Mexico, to develop a "virtual soundtrack along the river." Additionally, instrumentalists will play duet style throughout each evening.

San Antonio-based conceptual artist Anne Wallace reveals Bolero, her first video in a series shot among "urban ruins," featuring people dancing on tile left over from demolished buildings. Bolero will be projected across the water's surface on a grand scale.

Street Level

Night drops a blanket of the unfamiliar onto San Antonio's streets as multidisciplinary artists summon visitors into a participatory experience. Shipton notes, "People are starting to overlap and collaborate and I think that was a strength of Luminaria. I think that the influence will be seen in this Luminaria."

Argentinian artist Daniel Gonzales will "mold reality to make magic" with his Bohemian Texas Street Home Fashion Show. In preparation for the event, Gonzales sent out a citywide call for "lamp lenders;" his performance will feature fashions styled out of lamps on loan from the good folks of San Anto.

Local piñata enthusiast Avi Avalos dons the beloved Mr. Piñata costume and shimmies through the streets with free hugs and photobombs. You may see him snap a photo with San Antonio native Jimmy James Canales, currently on view as Monte Man in the windows of Artpace. Canales promises to surprise and delight in his costumed marvel. His current work, inspired by the mnemonic keyword "S.U.R.V.I.V.A.L.," enters the "I" ("Improvise" and "Value living") phase during Luminaria.

There won't be many indoor locales to hide from the lights of Luminaria but you'll find My Brother's Bar open for business. Inside, the Los Angeles artist and performer Gary Garay will be spinning records from the much forgotten Del Bravo Records. The Westside San Antonio recording studio recorded the work of many musicians from San Antonio, Mexico, and the southern U.S. "His entire set is going to be giving San Antonio, San Antonio," says Khoshbin.

In addition to Garay, there will be much music to be found on any of the three stages throughout the evenings, including hometown favorites Girl in a Coma and Texas Tornados along with Los Angeles-based fusionistas La Santa Cecilia and many more.

Facades

Luminaria's entrance transforms the buildings' facades into a fantastic new realm. With three-story projections and illuminated murals that rise five stories high, the urban landscape will be flooded with light.

A wild kitsch world, fueled by sexy girls and demon rituals will be splashed on the side of El Tropicano Riverwalk Hotel in a new mural created by Mexican artist Dr. Lakra. His previous works have been shown at the Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Oaxaca, Matthew Marks Gallery (NY) and The Drawing Collective (LA). Fun fact: Lakra's father is painter, sculptor and graphic artist Francisco Toledo.

Armando Lerma and Carlos Ramirez, otherwise known as the California self-taught duo, The Date Farmers, blend their Mexican American heritage with pop culture, politics, and the experience of the working artist. The pair will create a mural for the event.

The city's walls will also offer a bit of movement. Local multimedia artist Guy Hundere will project his video, Samson and Delilah against one of the exterior walls of Central Library. The piece illustrates the biblical tale via a utility pole swaying in the wind.

Local artist, organizer, and picture framer Andy Benavides takes a train zipping through San Antonio and turns it on its head in We Live with Trains. The 30-foot projection sends a train on a vertical trip to anywhere—as it heads into the sky, into the unknown, into tomorrow, and into the bold new future that Luminaria undertakes.

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