Artwork by first-time participant Albert Gonzales is on display at Luminaria Contemporary Arts Festival's media event. Credit: Bonnie Arbittier / San Antonio Report

A small crowd gathered Wednesday evening at Hemisfair for a media announcement to hear San Antonio painter Albert Gonzales say how excited he is to be participating in his first Luminaria Contemporary Arts Festival.

“If you’re in the art scene, if you’re in our culture in San Antonio, you know of Luminaria,” Gonzales said. Having only witnessed prior versions of the festival, he finally applied and was accepted as a featured artist, with collage paintings including materials representing his relationship with his grandfather.

Gonzales is one of 50 artists to be featured during the two-day festival, which will fill Hemisfair, the Henry B. González Convention Center, and a portion of the River Walk with sights and sounds the evening of Nov. 9. It will move to Mission San José for a special evening closing performance from 4 to 6 p.m. Nov. 10.

Nov. 10 programming also will include a community arts day at Hemisfair, with an artist market, ticketed brunches with artists, and artist-run workshops and demonstrations, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

“Actually being a part of [Luminaria] is something that I have only dreamed about, and now having an opportunity to connect with the community and the city on this level, it means so much to me because I get to inspire the next generation of artists that might have the same dream,” he said.

Aside from VIP programming, the festival is free and open to the public, in more ways than one. Artists and performers are invited to sign up for an open stage and an open gallery, with a chance to have their work seen by an estimated 20,000 festivalgoers. A costume contest will recognize the annual tradition of visitors creating their own mobile light installations featuring grandiose and glowing costumes, lighting up the night as they wander the festival grounds.

Last year, anonymous buskers performed on the same stage as singer Alyson Alonzo, who penned her name on the sign-in sheet for a 10-minute slot. This year Luminaria asks those interested to sign in via links in the “Community Interaction” section of the schedule page.

Aside from open stage and open gallery participants, the 2019 festival will feature 50 artists, musicians, filmmakers, performance artists, dancers, and writers.

While more than half of the artists are local, others will visit from cities including Boulder, Colorado; New Orleans; Miami; and Los Angeles and internationally from Mexico City; Barcelona, Spain; and St. Etienne, France. A complete list of artists, with brief biographies and descriptions of their projects, is available here.

Luminaria Contemporary Arts Festival curators and artists for 2019 gather for a photo at the media event.

A team of nine curators representing multiple disciplines selected the featured artists. Libby Day, marketing manager for The Aztec Theatre, contributed expertise in the music category, including Dance Like Robots from San Antonio, which she described as “a bunch of boys from the inner West Side” that she is excited to see onstage. Mike Ryan y Los San Patricios will combine Irish and Mexican immigrant history with a Mission San José performance alongside a print installation by Sabra Booth in the mission’s granary.

With so much to see, Day encouraged visitors to either study the artist lineup in advance and make a plan, or to simply wander the grounds and see what catches the eyes amid the nighttime spectacle.

Featured artist Sarah Fox, who will show a projected animation at the Hilton Pavilion titled Bruisers, addressing toxic masculinity in a “rock ’em-sock ’em way,” said she enjoys the festival for its family-friendly approach to contemporary art.

As an artist who has shown recently at Artpace and Sala Diaz, Fox said Luminaria is “also a really great way to reach an audience that you don’t always reach in traditional art galleries and traditional museums.”

Day reminded festivalgoers that they can be on display as well. “Don’t leave the lights at home,” she said, “bring ’em.” More information on the 2019 Luminaria Contemporary Arts Festival is available here.

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Nicholas Frank

Senior Reporter Nicholas Frank moved from Milwaukee to San Antonio following a 2017 Artpace residency. Prior to that he taught college fine arts, curated a university contemporary art program, toured with...