5th Annual Luminaria: San Antonio's largest art fest attracts even more visitors this year

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5th Annual Luminaria: San Antonio's largest art fest attracts even more visitors this year
Gary Sweeney and Hyperbubble.

By: Haydeé Muñoz De la Rocha

SAN ANTONIO, TX.- After being cancelled because of the weather and then planned again, Luminaria finally had its chance to shine last Saturday. This year, the organizers made promising changes that would apparently increase the overall quality of the experience. With a new adjudication process, funded projects, and preference of quality over quantity, this year’s Luminaria paved a path to an auspicious future.

Walking through Hemisfair Park was a pleasant experience. Luminaria was crowded but it was not at the point were you would get pushed around. It was a very friendly crowd. It was not loud and most people were appreciative of the art; they weren’t there to party, they were there to see some art. The event was extremely organized. There were color coded zones with numbers for every artist. Every number had an illuminated sign in the front with the name and QR code for every artist. The maps, The Fund volunteers, and the live website, really made the experience enjoyable. There was only one thing that I had trouble finding, which is an achievement when walking in the dark at such a big event. The disciplines participating were organized into different sections of the park. Contrary to last year’s unsystematic display, film was outside, visual arts were in the Women’s Pavilion, andthere were numbered staged clearly described on the maps, which made the experience easier to enjoy.

Last year, there was much more art participating. However, there was too much going on everywhere: a jewelry display in the middle of nowhere while a video was playing next to it and a painting exhibition was displayed in the house behind it. Also, the quality of the work on display had a considerable increase. Joanna Kid’s piece of shadows fighting on pedestals, Ben Mata’s beautiful luminiscent paintings, Bianca Pittman’s striking video, Gary Sweeney and Hyperbubble’s performance, and other pieces participating showed an overall increase in the ambition of this year’s projects. There was some refreshing and creative elements in the manner of displaying the pieces. For example, Seme Jatib’s video which consisted of a performance of the artist wearing a black dress on a black background and a rainy ground. The water element on the video is brought to reality by projecting it on a wall in front of a structure of water cascades where adults and children were invited to perform and “play in the rain”. Other projections were 360 degrees like Hoop Loopby Erik Bosse or were projected with laser on far away buildings like VuTure Art’s

Lots of Lux. However, the light element on the outdoor of the event was composed mainly of projections on the walls. Last year, there was more sculpture and installation dealing with light and a more creative exploration on how create art out of light. This year, besides the big PacMan and the fabric sculptures near the Tower of the Americas, there was not many “lights” outside beside the projections. People were actually grouping around PacMan to take pictures missing the physicality that an installation or sculpture provides. The projections gave the event a polished look, but using other quality unconventional uses of light be it installation, video, costumes, etc. would have emphasized the light element a little more as it did in previous years.

Performing Arts made had a stronger presence this year. Even though Performing Arts happened mostly on the delimitated stages throughout the park, some of the performances were woven within the walking experience of the viewer. Julia Lagenberg and her aerial dance performance and Sweeney and Hyperbubble’s piece happened in the same space of the visitor. This type of interaction of the performing arts with the public created a very dynamic feeling portraying the beginning of a new field for exploration: not only creating a superficial tactile experience for the visitor as Luminaria successfully does already, but submerging the viewer into the experience by making him or her an active participant of the performances by interacting and being in the same space.

So what is the veredict? The promises were kept and Luminaria went up to another step of many more to come. The organization of the event was first-class, quality ruled over dismissing the need for quantity, foreign jurors boosted the quality of the art displayed, and the addition of artists from outside of San Antonio created a fresh dialogue with local artists. The creative exchange between local and national artists in the event clearly painted the picture for upcoming years, where local artists influence external artists and vice versa. The art was a little more challenging not only for the artists but for the viewer as well, which is important in order to raise the bar in our city’s art appreciation and expectations. The changes made on the 5th annual Luminaria not only showed some of the great talented local artists and performing artists, but it created a trampoline of opportunity for the city. Luminaria this year posed a milestone in the development of the event by setting the way for a promising serious internationally known art festival if we continue with the good work.

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