Nicholas Frank / Rivard Report
After a busy winter week visiting five cities in Spain, staff members of the Pearl and Hotel Emma will bring Spanish art, architecture, and culinary traditions back to San Antonio for a two-month summer feast.
From June 15-Sept. 16, the Olé San Antonio festival will fill the former brewery’s grounds with events featuring the food, drink, arts, architecture, and urban culture of various Spanish regions. With Olé, the Pearl joins the Tricentennial Commission’s “Summer of Spain,” focused on the contributions of Spain to San Antonio’s culture.
“This is a dense program where there’s literally new programming every day,” said Elizabeth Fauerso, the Pearl’s chief marketing officer, during a Wednesday morning gathering at the Pearl Pavilion to announce the Olé festival.
The Pearl will release an Olé app in May, Fauerso said, “so you’ll actually be able to keep track, and create a ruta de tapas,” she said, using a Spanish colloquialism for tour planning. “We’ll all be able to create our own programs and agendas, to really dive into this,” she said.
A 2018 seasonal culture program published by the Spanish Embassy looks towards specific Olé festival events at the Pearl, including a concert by Spanish singer Concha Buika, flamenco performances, weekly Tapas Tuesdays, a “bilingual micro-theater,” and a gigantes y cabezudos parade of notable figures in San Antonio’s 300-year history.
Fauerso said several artists will be in residence at the Pearl at points during the summer. Flamenco choreographer Carlos Rodriguez and classical guitarist Luis Gallo will work with students from several area schools, including the University of Texas at San Antonio, to produce new works specifically for Olé San Antonio.
On hand for the announcement were a crowd of City, County, and Tricentennial officials, Pearl staff and festival partners, most of whom will contribute to the festival and the Summer of Spain.
“Collaboration is the San Antonio secret sauce of success,” said Casandra Matej, president and CEO of Visit San Antonio.
The Southwest School of Art will hold cabezudo workshops on the Pearl grounds, to help make the traditional “big head” costumes for a parade of notable figures in San Antonio history, to take place on the festival’s closing day in September.
Nearby, the San Antonio Museum of Art will present Spain: 500 Years of Spanish Painting from the Museums of Madrid, opening June 22 and running through Sept. 16. The special exhibition will feature paintings never before seen in the United States, said Shahrzad Dowlatshahi of the City’s International Relations Office, including works by El Greco, Velazquez, Goya, and Picasso. Directors of two Madrid museums, the Prado and Reina Sofía, are scheduled to speak at the opening.
The museum will also host a program of lecture series, film festivals, and visiting Spanish artists including Maider López. Also scheduled are late-evening programs inspired by Spanish street festivals, to include cooking demonstrations, flamenco lessons, poetry readings, dance, music, and art. Many events will be free to the public.
Further downtown, Bexar County and Texas A&M University will present Designing America: Spain’s Imprint in the U.S., at the Bexar County Courthouse in June. The exhibition, organized by Fundación Consejo España-Estados Unidos, in partnership with Biblioteca Nacional de España, will trace the indelible mark Spain has made on the landscape, settlement, and culture of the U.S.
Around town, H-E-B will join in with its third annual Viva España event, featuring products, recipes, food, and culture from Spain, according to Dya Campos, H-E-B’s director of public affairs. Viva España will take place at all stores with an H-E-B Cooking Connection, she said.
And of course, Fauerso said, each Pearl restaurant will feature tapas and special Spanish dishes, and the Culinary Institute of America will host master classes and cooking demonstrations for students and food enthusiasts.
Dowlatshahi said the Summer of Spain is based on four “pillars” of Spanish culture: arts and literature, music and dance, architecture and urban design, and gastronomy.
The four themes fit the atmosphere of the Pearl, with its many festivals, The Twig Book Shop, culinary choices, and public spaces.
“Part of what I see us doing here is bringing back an old practice of having a Plaza,” Fauerso said. “Being in Spain and seeing that centuries-long history of creating beautiful public spaces that all different kinds of people use, and have an ownership of, that’s a big tenet of how we design this environment” at the Pearl, she said.
Likewise, Fauerso said she believes the Spanish felt at home when they arrived in the similarly arid and dry climate of Texas. The Hill Country environment provided the “architectural and engineering foundation that allowed this community to exist,” she said.
One goal of the Olé festival and Summer of Spain is for the international intercambio, or exchange, to continue, Fauerso said, looking forward to the cured jamón to be produced by a Hill Country group called the Acornseekers.
Oak trees and acorns here are “almost identical to the environment where these pigs so successfully thrive in Spain,” she said. The group recently imported 400 breeding pigs, Fauerso explained, and though the meat won’t be cured in time for this summer’s festivities, next year it will be a feature of Pearl cuisine.
Meanwhile, for the duration of the Summer of Spain, “we now will end every sentence with ‘Olé,’” Fauerso said at the close of Wednesday’s announcement.