Looking forward to Luminaria ’09

On March 15, I attended the first “Luminaria: Arts Night in San Antonio” with my family.  The “citywide celebration” featured performances and art displays at the Magik Theatre, Artpace, and AnArte Gallery among a total of 55 participating locations. We attended the evening festival downtown. 

I’m not an art expert or a member of the cultural elite. I’m just a small business owner and father of two who’d rather have his children attend breathtaking museum openings, like the recently reopened Greek and Roman Galleries at the San Antonio Museum of Art rather than Disney’s High School Musical on ice. My impression is that Luminaria was designed for people like me, regular folk. 

In my opinion, San Antonio Mayor Phil Hardberger, El Padre of this creation, had the following in mind when this concept was being developed: “Let’s show San Antonio and the world that we have the potential to become a GREAT city. A part of that process involves highlighting a vibrant cultural community that is open to all, including the mundane entrepreneur.”

The Mayor, the donors, the participants, the volunteers, and the organizers of this event succeeded. They have planted the seed for something that could be become powerful, memorable, and unique in this community. This event was presented with love and passion and it showed. 

Bill FitzGibbon’s “LED light installation projected on to the Alamo” was done just right. Folks stood in front of the shrine and probably thought, “This old gal is really beautiful. I had not seen her in this light in the past.” The majestic Alamo reminded us once again: People and things come and go, but I am still here. 

The lighted buildings in front of the Alamo had the same quiet dignity as the Symphony created their magic. The assorted music stages and the various art galleries on Houston Street had their own special appeal. Attendees looked at each other and probably thought, “This is cool. I can’t wait to invite my snobby friends from Austin to this next year.” There are many other special items that would take up too much space in my humble column.  

The organizers of the event will be meeting soon to go over the event details and plans for 2009. This guest columnist is slowly developing a tendency of offering unsolicited advice when none is sought. It is for that reason that I would like to appoint myself as an honorary member of the “Luminaria Steering Committee” this week so I can chime in. 

Let’s start with your Tex-Mex/Jalisco-loving stomach that could stand to lose a few pounds. What does one eat in Valencia, Spain? Paella. What does one drink in Tuscany? OK, you get the point. The food and drinks at Luminaria were provided by the RK Group, in collaboration with Azuca and Wow Café & Wingery. This is the same group that has the convention center catering contract. The organizers missed an opportunity here.

There should have been 10 to 14 booths run by small restaurants and cafes who still maintain their Old World specialties. Who doesn’t love the dolma prepared by a 70-year-old Greek old woman who is named Sophia? Yes, I want to eat a GORDITA prepared by SKINNY young man from Northern Mexico who learned this from his aunt who happens to be a GORDITA.  

Is food important to a culture? Are current presidential candidates visiting Milam park? No. They are visiting our other downtown shrine — Mi Tierra. One friend who attended Luminaria decided to eat on the river after she scanned the limited food and drink options. Next year, the lady should not walk for better food. 

The gardens behind the Alamo were lonely, quiet, dark, and asleep. They should have been alive with works of sculpture by dynamic Texan and Mexicans artists. The same applies to Alamo Plaza in front of the Menger hotel. The area was in need of this kind of art. 

It is a mystery to me why the San Antonio Children’s Museum decided not to open. It is true there were few small children at the event, but there were many parents and grandparents who could have been introduced to the museum. You can hear them now: “When did this place open?” It has been there for more than 10 years. 

Mary Kay and Avon succeed by inviting people to parties and getting them hooked on their offerings. People buy or agree to sell their products. Grassroots art organizations should have had tables to collect email address and pass out information.  We needed to be invited to participate beyond Luminaria.   

BRAVO to everybody who made this event possible. For one night, you lit up of our lives and we thank you. I can’t wait for Luminaria 2009 and the sculpture garden I mentioned. My term as an honorary Luminaria Steering Committee member is now over.  Lights out! 

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