Sunset on the Hays Street Bridge served as the backdrop Tuesday night for the official announcement that Luminaria 2016 will take place on the Eastside. The festival of art and light is in its eighth season and this year the focus will be on Downtown East, an area steeped in African-American history and culture. The event will take place over multiple days with the main night festival happening on Friday, Nov. 11, from 8 p.m. to midnight.
Luminaria Executive Director Kathy Armstrong announced the all new festival footprint and an all new Artistic Advisory Committee alongside her team and the Luminaria board of directors.
Footprint landmarks include the Hays Street Bridge, Dignowity Park, Lockwood Park and the anchor host for Luminaria, the Carver Community Cultural Center.
Special guests for the announcement included Councilman Alan Warrick (D2); Felix Padrón, the outgoing executive director of the Department of Creative and Cultural Development (DCCD) and Luminaria board member; Mike Etienne, director of EastPoint; and Yonnie Blanchette, Carver Community Cultural Center executive director.
Early community partner organizations include the David Robinson Museum, the Ella Austin Community Cultural Center, IDEA Carver Academy, City of San Antonio Office of EastPoint and the Department for Culture and Creative Development.
Also in attendance were leaders from the various neighborhood associations in the area including Dignowity Hill, Denver Heights and Harvard Place/Eastlawn. All were there to express support within the community for the festival.
The goals of Luminaria have evolved over the years since the first event took place in Alamo Plaza in 2008. Originally an event that focused solely on the artists of San Antonio, the festival has become an opportunity to create national and international artistic interactions.
Creativity and the arts are an important community asset and economic generator, Padrón said. “A strategic turning point, was to use Luminaria to expose the core of downtown, as an activator to define the various destinations and think about how the arts can attract the community.” This includes local residents as well as tourists.
According to a study from the DCCD in cooperation with the San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, the economic impact of the creative class is around $4 billion, employing more than 22,000 individuals.
“Luminaria feeds into that and helps define who we are as a creative class,” Padrón said.
Blanchette eloquently explained the roots of the Carver Center in the African-American community and the special place that it has held creatively and culturally over the years.
“The Carver has been and remains a place where the community comes together in celebration and exploration of not only what makes us all unique, but that which also unites us. A place where all are welcome,” Blanchette said. “At any given performance at The Carver, I am always moved to look out into the audience and see the rich and beautiful diversity of San Antonio. That really is the power of the arts, isn’t it?”
“This is indeed the decade of the Eastside,” Etienne said. “I am delighted that Luminaria has chosen to move to the Eastside. This is further evidence that we are making progress and meeting our goals of transforming the Eastside into a vibrant, mixed-income community rich in diversity and opportunity.”
The offices of Luminaria will also be making a move. Located on Broadway during the 2015 season which centered around the San Antonio Museum of Art and the Museum Reach of the San Antonio River, Armstrong and company will now be taking up residence at the Ella Austin Community Cultural Center.
“Everybody who is here is part of Luminaria,” Armstrong said. “We have been overwhelmed by those who have reached out to us so far. Reach out to contact us, send an email, make a phone call. We want to represent San Antonio and we have the artists to prove it.”
With that, Armstrong introduced the 2016 Artistic Advisory Committee. This panel is composed of a cross-section of visionary artists and community activists who work in collaboration to bring together a contemporary arts festival that seeks to illuminate and inspire. These individuals will be working with the submitted applications as well as reaching out to activate the community and inspire participation from all corners of the community.
David Alcantar is a painter who is a strong advocate of art and critical thinking. His interest is attached to art’s ability to address what is universal and to point out the beauty that exists in the world.
Angela Covo is the editor of Edible San Antonio Magazine. Currently she and publisher Frederic Covo are spearheading the effort to have San Antonio recognized and designated as a UNESCO Creative City of Gastronomy. Covo is also a recognized film critic and served as the managing editor of La Prensa San Antonio.
Danielle King is a multi-award winning actor and singer. She is the co-founder of The Renaissance Guild, San Antonio’s premiere black theatre company, and her own company Dramachild Productions.
Joey T. Lopez (aka “joey phd”) is a new media artist and founder of Convergent Media Collective. He is a Professor and advisor at University of the Incarnate Word. His passion is teaching and working with students and the community to realize their aspirations.
Jeannette Muñiz is a singer-songwriter turned broadcaster. Based out of San Antonio, she is the host of Live and Local on KRTU 91.7. As an advocate for local music she has been recognized for Best Radio Show in 2015 by the San Antonio Current. She also specializes in media relations and marketing.
Octavio Quintanilla is the author of the poetry collection If I Go Missing. This CantoMundo Fellow is the South Texas regional editor for Texas Books in Review and teaches literature and creative writing in the MA/MFA program at Our Lady of the Lake University.
The participation format for Luminaria 2016 is once again open call. All artists of any genre or medium are invited to submit a proposal. This includes visual, performance, musical, literary, comedy, fashion, architectural, film, light, mixed media, environmental, dance or any combination of artistic genres. Selected artists are commissioned and paid for their services.
Applications open on April 1 and close on May 5. Go to www.LuminariaSA.org to apply. This process is facilitated courtesy of PublicArtist.org and there is no application fee. All works must be created specifically for Luminaria which is a showcase of new works or Texas premieres. Due to the changing location of the event, artists are encouraged to create site-specific, genre breaking, new works.
Warrick said the event brings hope to his district, which struggles with poverty and crime.
“You can’t have a resurgence in any community without the arts,” he said. “I am glad the board (of Luminaria) was able to see the benefit that the Eastside will have (on the event) and what we can show to the rest of San Antonio and the positive things that are happening in our community.”
Warrick touched on the recent violence that has plagued the neighborhood but stressed that these events should not overshadow the good that is happening. District 2 is a 62 square mile area, the largest in the city and he points out that much of the area has never seen a shooting.
“There’s pain, there’s grief, there can be art in that,” he said. “We are going to expose so many new people to the Eastside that wouldn’t have experienced it otherwise. It can be beautiful.”
Top image: A large group of guests arrived for the press event on the Hays Bridge. Photo by Scott Ball.