Luminaria, San Antonio’s contemporary multi-arts festival, is returning to Hemisfair in celebration of its 10th anniversary.

Luminaria was created by former Mayor Phil Hardberger in 2008 and began downtown. Last year’s festival took place on the historic Eastside. This year’s main event at Hemisfair will take place on Nov. 10 from 7 p.m. to midnight, with additional special, ticketed events throughout the Nov. 9-11 weekend.

Update: Artists may submit a proposal to participate in this year’s festival online at The deadline for materials is May 15 at 3 p.m. With a $100,000 budget, artists can request budgets of $250, $500, $1000, $2500 or $5000. 

“Luminaria does not have a formula for how the funds will be awarded amongst the different budget levels,” according to the application page. Project proposals will be evaluated based on their overall professionalism, creativity, originality, and innovation. 

Informational sessions about the application process will be held on Saturday, April 22 at the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center at 10:30 a.m. and on Tuesday, April 25 at Artpace, 5:30 p.m.

Festival events will take place inside galleries and theaters within the Instituto Cultural de México, the San Antonio campus of the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, and the Magik Theatre. Other venues in the Hemisfair district include front porches of historic homes, Yanaguana Garden, and portions of East Nueva Street.

“Hardberger envisioned gifting San Antonio with an arts festival of international stature inspired by Nuit Blanche in Paris,” Luminaria Board Chair Liz Tullis said Tuesday during a press event at the Instituto. “Ten years strong, Luminaria has held that vision: spotlighting art as a critical component to our city’s soul and our evolution.”

This map of Hemisfair highlights activation spaces for Luminaria. Credit: Courtesy / Hemisfair

Since its founding, Luminaria shone the spotlight on different areas of San Antonio that are in transition, Tullis said, with the overarching goal of advancing the city both culturally and artistically.

“It’s only fitting that this year we found our home in the Hemisfair district, as it has transformed and is transforming,” Tullis explained. “[It’s] not just a park, but it’s buildings, restaurants, children areas, and community centers meant to really activate the heart of our city.”

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Hemisfair’s reactivation efforts include transforming roadways into complete streets that are cyclist-, pedestrian-, and wheel chair-friendly, and providing better connectivity to its amenities and surrounding neighborhoods just like it once did during the World’s Fair.

“Everything that’s happening at the Hemisfair transformation is all about locals,” said Drew Hicks, communications manager for the Hemisfair Park Area Redevelopment Corporation.

“We want to be where San Antonio meets, and Luminaria wants to be the contemporary arts festival for the whole city, and so to marry those two things together makes a lot of sense.”

Hicks said that Hemisfair Park really shines at night, especially Yanaguana Garden, which has drawn more than 700,000 visitors from all corners of the city since it opened.

“The park is really beautiful at night,” he said. “It’s just this tunnel of light on the promenade and it’s beautifully lit. Luminaria is all about lights, so I think to see the facades of the buildings lit up and all this new light and energy at the park in the evenings is going to be really, really cool.”

Luminaria also is partnering with the City’s Department of Arts & Culture and SpareParts will provide an educational component at the festival, said Luminaria Executive Director Kathy Armstrong. Another partner, Southtown the Arts District, will help provide programming at Hemisfair which will cross over into Southtown’s studios and galleries.

“Arts and culture are important to us because they enrich our lives, add to our quality of life, and help tell our story – where we’ve been, where we are now, and where we are headed in our community,” Councilman Roberto Treviño (D1) said. “Luminaria showcases to other cities what we already know: that San Antonio is a great place to live, work and play, and create.”

San Antonio Poet Laureate Jenny Browne, musician Garrett T. Capps, visual artist and curator Joe de la Cruz, Carver Community Cultural Center Supervisor Cassandra Parker-Nowicki, Youth Orchestra of San Antonio Music Director Troy Peters, and Martiza “Blu” Vazquez, who is head of the exhibitions committee for Blue Star Contemporary Art, all make up this year’s Artistic Advisory Committee for Luminaria. Armstrong will work with the committee to curate projects for the festival.

“Luminaria is obviously a celebration of all the artistic creativity and community that exists in San Antonio and beyond, but it is much about the arts as a vehicle for placemaking as it is about the arts themselves,” Parker-Nowicki said.

San Antonio poet laureate Jenny Browne.
San Antonio poet laureate Jenny Browne.

Browne has lived in the Lavaca neighborhood since 1999, so Hemisfair has always served as her neighborhood park.

“To see this festival having gone through an evolution, to see it happening right now at a moment when it feels like the transformation of this space [Hemisfair] is visible and tangible feels personal, but in a way that’s really exciting,” Browne said. “People are pausing and looking around and saying, ‘Where am I?’ which is what I think Luminaria has always done. It creates this encounter, a sense of surprise, a sense of contemplation.”

Avatar photo

Rocío Guenther

Rocío Guenther worked as a bilingual reporter and editorial assistant for the Rivard Report from June 2016 to October 2017. She is originally from Guadalajara, Mexico and holds a bachelor's in English...