A Night of Light and Warmth at Luminaria Amid November Chill

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Silhouettes walk in front of the Luminaria sign at Hemisfair Park.

Bonnie Arbittier / Rivard Report

Figures in silhouette walk in front of the Luminaria sign at Hemisfair Park.

Clouds and a cold front didn’t stop abundant crowds from attending the 10th annual Luminaria contemporary arts festival Friday night. Luminaria was back at Hemisfair for the first time since 2013.

Yanaguana Garden was warmed by several instances of literal and metaphorical heat, such as from Barcelona duo Reskate’s chili queen-themed glow-in-the-dark mural at the festival’s Alamo Street entrance.

Reskate’s San Antonio “chili queen” mural greets visitors at the Hemisfair park entrance of Luminaria.

Bonnie Arbittier / Rivard Report

Reskate’s San Antonio “chili queen” mural greets visitors at the Hemisfair Park entrance of Luminaria.

Bursts of flame issued from atop a 14-foot metal tower titled Temple Trip near the Market Street entrance, a collaboration between Houston’s Women Who Weld group and fire effects expert Kenny Browning.

“It’s such a primal passion” to weld, said Women Who Weld member Kathleen Keahey as she intermittently sent flames skyward. “You get that kind of heat that’s center-of-the-Earth type temperatures, and you make something with it.”

Women Who Weld's Kathleen Keahey presses a button to ignite a flame at the top of "Temple Trip" at Luminaria.

Bonnie Arbittier / Rivard Report

Women Who Weld member Kathleen Keahey presses a button to ignite a flame at the top of Temple Trip at Luminaria.

Chef Cerissa Antill, normally Coach Pop’s private chef, brought her pop-up Bon Fire Grill tent to Luminaria to serve up barbecue pork and s’mores. Near the children’s play area on the opposite side of the grounds, thick clouds of mesquite smoke wafted from the wood-fired grill of A Little Taste of Heaven On A Stick, offering an array of kabobs.

Luminaria seemed as much a showcase for its featured artists and performers as for its visitors, some of whom made themselves into artworks. Joan Frederick, a featured artist at last year’s festival, this time wore an illuminated photographic lampshade featuring an image of storm clouds suitable to the day’s weather. Her friend Irene Dietrick also wore a Frederick lampshade, and the two sported Christmas light-covered tunics.

The unusual illuminations of the festival proved irresistible backdrops for selfies, as festival goers snapped shot after shot, taking advantage of improving low-light technology in smart phone cameras.

(From left) Chris Stokes, Olivia Youngblood, and Stephanie Marquez make shadow puppets in front of a light display at Luminaria.

Bonnie Arbittier / Rivard Report

(From left) Chris Stokes, Olivia Youngblood, and Stephanie Marquez make shadow puppets in front of a light display at Luminaria.

Of the featured artworks, the video animation of Sarah Fox and Jared Theis dominated on sheer scale alone, with claymation-style figures of a mermaid with lobster claws, a frog with butterfly wings, and a girl with a bird’s beak and snail shell. The blank side wall of the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center served as a screen for the projection, measuring some 35 yards in length and towering over other projects presented underneath.

The Cube Loom of artist Katie Pell, presented by the Southwest School of Art, held its own. Kids enthusiastically wove day-glo strips of green, yellow, and orange plastic sheeting into Pell’s wefts of brightly colored string, strung between side poles of the eight-foot high wooden frame.

“It’s like we’re weaving people together. We’re weaving the human tapestry of life,” she said.

Christine Gonzales, 9, concentrates on tying colored strings in the art piece "Cube Loom" by Katie Pell at Luminaria.

Bonnie Arbittier / Rivard Report

Christine Gonzales, 9, concentrates on tying colored strings in the art piece Cube Loom by Katie Pell at Luminaria.

A decade ago, then-Mayor Phil Hardberger imported the idea for Luminaria from a Paris nighttime art festival he experienced. Enlisting San Antonio artists and supporters, he helped created a free, accessible contemporary art-focused event “without alcohol and with high intellectual content,” he said during an October news conference announcing the event.

At the same news conference, Mayor Ron Nirenberg said Luminaria is a “gift that we continue to give to the next generation of San Antonians, hopefully to become smarter, more imaginative, and certainly solve the creative challenges that we have in front of us.”

Some of those challenges, including renewable energy and “regenerative design,” will be discussed during a second day of Luminaria programs on Saturday during the Southtown the Arts District Festival.

CRITT Project performs "Burst" at Luminaria.

Bonnie Arbittier / Rivard Report

CRITT Project performs Burst at Luminaria.

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