Yadhira Lozano has been named executive director of Luminaria. Credit: Bonnie Arbittier / San Antonio Report

Luminaria San Antonio suffered the pandemic-induced cancellation of its signature 2020 event in April and the announced departure of its leader in June. But the organization showed signs of recovery on Thursday when it announced Yadhira Lozano as its new executive director.

Lozano, who beat out 50 other candidates during the four-month search, will lead the 12-year-old organization that runs the fall Luminaria Contemporary Arts Festival and the annual Luminaria Artist Foundation regranting program.

Lozano called the Luminaria festival “our signature event for this city,” and in a news announcement stated her goal as elevating the organization “onto a national and international stage where San Antonio and South Texas can be appreciated for our rich and vibrant culture.”

Though she won’t start officially until early 2021, Lozano already was in the Luminaria office Thursday with outgoing director Kathy Armstrong preparing holiday cards for donors and supporters.

“Yadhira is coming to Luminaria at exactly the right time. We are at a challenging time with how to showcase art,” Armstrong said, citing a rapid shift to digital and virtual platforms, extolling Lozano’s background working with emerging technology as a significant strength.

“This will be the exact perfect time to make sure that the programs that we create for the festival continue, though they may be in a different format,” Armstrong said. “That’s one of the things I’m excited about with her taking the helm.”

Lozano, a San Antonio native, went to the University of Southern California and lived in California for two decades prior to returning to her hometown. Her work producing events with the Mexican Cultural Institute and Autry National Center in Los Angeles built her wide-ranging experience with museums, libraries, theater, marketing and promotion, and programming. Her work with Epson Latin America exposed her to cutting-edge technologies at the turn of the 21st century, lending insight into how artists might employ digital media.

She came back to San Antonio to help open the Briscoe Western Art Museum in 2013 as head of communications. Since then, she has served as the District 3 appointee to the San Antonio Arts Commission, working on its public art committee and chairing the Centro de Artes committee, where she recently led the opposition to the censorship of an artist’s video.

But Lozano said she feels it was her experience helping to produce the popular annual Tejano Conjunto Festival for the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center that showed the Luminaria board her greatest strengths in organizing, promoting and producing a complex event.

Though Lozano joined the Guadalupe Center in 2017 as communications and special projects director, she said she’s been with the organization “for my whole life.” She took voice and violin classes and volunteered for the Tejano Conjunto Festival back in high school, she said.

“There’s so much talent that comes out of the Guadalupe, the kids that are taking classes there are our next stars. They’re the ones that are going to keep the music and the dance and the folklorico going. I’m a huge supporter of the program,” she said.

Part of her new job is to help elevate that next generation of cultural artists through Luminaria’s programs, to “let people know that San Antonio has this vibrant artistic community that’s active and engaging and eager to put out this South Texas perspective. Because this is not Los Angeles, this is not New York. We have a different culture here that’s unique. It’s special. It’s beautiful. We’re very proud of it. And it’s what makes San Antonio unique,” she said.

Her first task will be to administer the Luminaria Artist Foundation grants in February, distributing $30,000 in City arts funding to individual artists. Lozano said the program is designed to “protect our artists community, and make sure that they don’t leave us for places where they’re more supported. We want to make sure that they’re supported here.”

With a COVID-19 vaccine on the horizon, the Luminaria Contemporary Arts Festival is likely to return for its regular November 2021 slot, and Lozano also will begin fundraising and programming as she transitions to her new position.

Armstrong said Lozano has ideas for new funding structures and sources that will help raise more money for individual artists and the festival, a great need in the face of the economic devastation the pandemic has brought to the arts community.

Armstrong said Lozano will introduce new “revenue concepts” for the programs, with crowdsourcing, corporate funding, and other methods to draw income.

“I’m very excited to see the diversification that we’ve brought so far in the last five and a half years, to see that go even further,” Armstrong said. “So that Luminaria is able to take arts and culture to the next level.”

Reflecting on past Luminaria festivals and looking forward to her first, Lozano said, “It’s beautiful. This is who we are. It’s our culture on display.”

Nicholas Frank

Nicholas Frank

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 an indie rock...