Speakers at the inaugural San Antonio CityFest include (from top left): Graham Weston, LaToya Cantrell, Julián Castro, T.C.? Broadnax?, Sheryl Sculley, Red McCombs, Lila Cockrell, Ron Nirenberg, Evan Smith, Henry Cisneros, Phil Hardberger, and Molly Cox. Credit: Scott Ball and Bonnie Arbittier / San Antonio Report ; NOLAfiddler / Wikimedia Commons ; Courtesy / City of Dallas

The Rivard Report on Wednesday announced the lineup for San Antonio CityFest, a first-ever event to celebrate ideas that accelerate progressive change in the city.

Produced in partnership with Southwest School of Art Nov. 8-10, CityFest will feature three days of presenters and panelists sharing the stage and discussing topics ranging from mobility and culture to civic issues and gender.

“We conceived the idea for CityFest, an annual urban ideas festival, after attending the Texas Tribune’s Tribfest in Austin, which focuses on national and state issues,” said Robert Rivard, editor and publisher. “The moment seems ideal in San Antonio to bring together invited thought leaders from outside the city and state to connect with local leaders to step back and take a good look at San Antonio’s opportunities and challenges.

“The programming is going to be very strong for something this new.”

Rivard said he was especially excited to have the Tricentennial Commission serve as a presenting sponsor and for the festival to serve as the capstone event for the 300th anniversary celebrations.

“We have some great Tricentennial programming planned with New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell joining Mayor Ron Nirenberg on stage, a panel of contributing writers from the book 300 Years of San Antonio and Bexar County, and a panel of ‘San Antonio icons,’ who will share stories and memories of key moments in the city’s trajectory from HemisFair ’68 forward,” Rivard added.

More details and tickets for San Antonio CityFest are available here.

The event will kick off at the Pearl Stable on Thursday, Nov. 8, with a luncheon and keynote speaker Gil Penalosa of Toronto. General admission tickets are $75, and Rivard Report members receive a $10 discount with a promo code.

Penalosa is founder and chair of the mobility-minded nonprofit 8 80 Cities and a World Urban Parks ambassador. With his brother, Enrique, longtime mayor of Bogotá, Colombia, Penalosa launched Síclovía in that city, and transformed it into a global phenomenon.

His current work focuses on urban core livability and sustainability in cities ranging from Singapore and Paris to Brownsville and McAllen, and was the topic of his TED Talk in 2014.

Penalosa believes every city should be designed for those as young as 8 and as old as 80, that every child should live within walking distance of a park, and that cities should be better designed for healthy aging. San Antonio should be “bold” in its pursuit of the qualities that improve mobility and air quality, and lead to health and happiness, he said.

“This is not just about going from point A to point B, but about the benefit of parks and mobility, and talking about issues like the impact of mobility on health – physical, mental, emotional health – and the very high rate of [Type II] diabetes in San Antonio,” he said.

The mobility conversation will continue with Penalosa speaking on Nov. 9 starting at 10 a.m. at Texas A&M University-San Antonio. Later that day, a CityFest Happy Hour will take place at Alamo Brewery and feature two panels on topics related to the challenges of urban living and revitalization.

In the first, University Health System Foundation President Lourdes Castro Ramirez, real estate developer Juan Cano, and Rivard Report Senior Reporter Iris Dimmick will discuss the plan for affordable housing in San Antonio.

The second panel will feature Penalosa and Colleen Bridger, director of the San Antonio Metropolitan Health District, who together will examine the quality of mobility in San Antonio’s urban core and how it relates to public health.

Friday’s programming is free with RSVP.

A full day of CityFest programming on Saturday, Nov. 10, at Southwest School of Art will feature a special presentation focused on the mission of the Tricentennial Commission and a lunch sponsored and catered by the RK Group. Day passes are $99, and $75 for Rivard Report members who use a promo code.

The day’s lineup includes:

  • San Antonio Icons and Turning Points in Contemporary City History
  • A Conversation with Contributing Authors to 300 Years of San Antonio and Bexar County
  • A Tale of Two Tricentennials: How San Anton and New Orleans Celebrated 300 Years and How History is Turned into Momentum
  • Gender, Power, and Leadership
  • The Future of Home Rule and City Management in Texas
  • Park the Car: 21st-Century Mass Transit and the Micro-Mobility Revolution
  • Art, Culture, and the Nexus in City Building
  • The Decade of Downtown and SA2020: An Early Assessment

“As both a citizen and as president of the Southwest School of Art, I’m excited about the first-ever CityFest and honored to be partnering with the Rivard Report for what will no doubt incentivize future CityFests because of the quality and dynamism of the program,” Southwest School of Art President Paula Owen said.

Owen will moderate a panel presentation featuring Jon Hinojosa, artistic executive director of SAY Sí, and Debbie Racca-Sittre, director of the City of San Antonio’s Department of Arts & Culture.

“We often take for granted arts and culture and don’t stop to recognize how central they are to the vitality and prosperity of cities worldwide,” Owen said. “Our panel will be looking at arts and culture from various angles – social justice, economic development, the pursuit of meaning, education, and jobs.”

The day’s events will conclude with a trip to Luminaria, the city’s after-dark contemporary arts festival, at Hemisfair. Founded in 2008, this year’s Luminaria will feature more than 300 artists creating 1,200 visual art installations and 900 performances.

Trinity University is also sponsoring San Antonio CityFest. For information on sponsorships, contact Laura Lopez, Rivard Report events and audience engagement coordinator, at laura@rivardreport.com.

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Shari Biediger

Shari Biediger is the development beat reporter for the San Antonio Report.