Luminaria could be so much more

We’re on our sixth year of Luminaria in San Antonio. The original event was based on Paris’ Nuit Blanche, which is one of many White Night festivals around the world. They’re events in which art institutions open up and the entire inner city becomes a canvas for illuminated art. They’re thoughtful and very culturally significant.

I’ve made the first and fourth Luminaria. This year was, well, disappointing. It’s clear that commercial interests have taken over and instead of being an intelligent, edgy event, Luminaria is now just another San Antonio street fair. So, ultimately, I’m psyched Luminaria exists but sad that it could be so much more.

In year one, I was amazed by the creativity of the artists and the lack of commercialization. My overwhelming memory was, “That (then Mayor) Phil Hardberger is the bomb for doing this.” It was his brainchild and put together very quickly. That haphazardness showed and was the inaugural event’s most redeeming quality. The atmosphere was great and the attendees were genuinely interested in the art.

This year was decidedly different. The venue has moved from Houston St to Hemisfair. The art was fewer and felt just an excuse to close streets for the obligatory, tired food booths, Bud Light sponsored signs and beer booths, and stages with the same music acts that we see at every event around town. Most participants were just shuffling from one food booth to another, blindly ignoring any the dispersed art installations. My reaction wading through the crowd this year was, “Geez, where’s the art?”

Now, don’t get me wrong, I love a good Gordita or Turkey Leg as much as the next guy and I’d much rather have a mediocre Luminaria than no Luminaria. But, it seems we had a great, unique signature event in the first Luminaria much like Siclovia. We should go back to that original formula of a shoestring event that is all about art rather than having yet another NIOSA or Rodeo Carnival event that does little to show our city as one on the rise.

Michael Girdley