Collaboration and the arts go hand in hand. That’s why a new mural painted by visiting Spanish artists SABEK and Joan Tarragó now adorns one of the exterior walls of the 1906 studio in Southtown.

Luminaria’s partnership with Southtown the Arts District (STAD), a part of Luminaria’s upcoming 10th annual festival, created the pretext for connecting with the muralists, who are currently leaving their art marks all over the United States on their Survibe tour.

Founded in 2008 by former Mayor Phil Hardberger, Luminaria is San Antonio’s popular contemporary multi-arts festivals. It began downtown but has since moved to other areas in the city – last year’s festival took place on the Eastside while the 10-year anniversary will ignite the area around Hemisfair downtown.

“It’s a long journey from Texas to Atlanta, Miami, Richmond, Washington, and New York,” said SABEK, one of the muralists visiting from Madrid. “We connected with Luminaria and they were so helpful. They just asked us to come paint.”

STAD was founded in 2014 by Director Yvette Benavides and her husband Andy as a means to “unify, market and promote STAD’s creative culture, and businesses under one brand making it easier for the general public, collectors, and tourists to find us.” The flourishing community of homegrown and international artists has led to a variety of collaborations – the one with Luminaria and the Survibe artists being the latest.

The two Spaniards will complete three murals by the end of their stay on Saturday. Before they leave, Luminaria will invite the public to a free “Meet the Muralists” event on Thursday, June 15 at Il Forno. For event details, click here.

The murals are early activations of the partnership between the two San Antonio organizations: On Saturday, Nov. 11, STAD will celebrate its second annual Southtown Arts Fest, and Luminaria will host daytime activities in conjunction with its own recurring event.

“Our downtown free festival – the night festival [on Friday, Nov. 10] – is going to be at Hemisfair,” said Kathy Armstrong, Luminaria’s executive director. “But our deeper experience is to integrate with the community and to connect our featured artists for Luminaria with different open studios. We’ve done that the past two years with workshops series, brunch series, and a few other special events. Our partner for that this year is Southtown.”

Now in its second year of organizing its art fest, STAD has 170 members and an expanding community network.

“[Luminaria] approached us to see if we’d … activate the daytime projects for them because we’re already connecting all the neighborhoods,” Benavides said. “So this will coincide with our Southtown the Arts District festival.”

While not a formal component of Luminaria, the murals represent the organization’s growing reach as well as greater cohesion within the broader arts community.

“This early activation really is just more of a community gesture or community interaction. One of the things that Luminaria has been doing since 2014 is highlighting different downtown neighborhoods, and partnering with different artistic collaborators,” Armstrong said. “That’s really important not only for the city of San Antonio to connect all of our arts organizations and artists with each other, but also to showcase our city.”

Executive director at Luminaria Kathy Armstrong and Director of South Town the Arts District Yvette Benavides stand in front of the Grackle mural at one of their locations for their day festival.
Executive director at Luminaria Kathy Armstrong and Director of South Town the Arts District Yvette Benavides stand in front of the Grackle mural at one of their locations for their day festival. Credit: Hannah Whisenant / San Antonio Report

Along with the collaborative work, each muralist will complete individual murals as well. The 1906 studio mural is the first collaborative work completed by SABEK and Joan Tarragó.

“We didn’t know the wall before we came,” SABEK said. “We didn’t have any previous ideas for it. I like the birds that are here, the grackles. Because I’d never seen a bird like this before, flying so weirdly.”

“I think [the colors] help to transmit movement,” said Tarragó, a muralists from Barcelona. “The blue gets to look something like water, and when you contrast it with the black lines it helps to create a movement. It’s trying to bring a little bit of life to pieces of concrete and stone.”

Despite the artists’ expertise in other artistic mediums, painting murals presents a unique challenge.

“It’s like a fight with a wall,” Tarragó said. “Drawing on paper is kind of controlled, you know? But the wall is like fighting. Sometimes you find really difficult walls or the painting is not working. It’s a hard time, but you’re enjoying it.”

SABEK and Tarragó’s collaborative mural is featured alongside two others painted on the 1906 studio’s exterior.

“I love it,” Benavides said. “We have murals on our building from artists that have visited us from all over the world. One is from Mexico City, [these two are] from Madrid and Barcelona, and another is local. It’s public art that people can connect to. It brings the community out and makes art accessible to everyone.”

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Jeffrey Sullivan

Jeffrey Sullivan is a Rivard Report reporter. He graduated from Trinity University with a degree in Political Science.