I’m still collecting thoughts and reactions from Luminaria, but here’s my initial post-event take on how it all turned out. While a lot of my pre-Luminaria criticisms still stand, I think these problems need to be put into perspective. First of all, I think for most people who made it downtown (and there were a lot of folks out there), the organizational problems were not really apparent. The events flowed well, there was a lot of good energy and big crowds, but it was never difficult to get to where you wanted to be, and there seemed to be plenty of strategically located food and drink stands, port-o-potties, etc. The event planners and promoters did their job, and everyone I talked to seemed to really enjoy the night.
As expected, there was a pretty big range in both the style and the quality of art presented. As I pointed out earlier, I think Luminaria could benefit from more competitive funding opportunities. I’d like to see a process in place that would allow museum-quality artists to create new work specifically for Luminaria — site-specific installations, sculptures, projections, etc. There’s no way this will happen unless a bigger chunk of money is available to participating artists. But I also think Luminaria needs to keep the inclusive feel that was achieved last night. Things felt very open, with the symphony playing across the street from fire dancers and around the corner from an open-mic poetry reading, work by Chuck Ramirez and Katie Pell across the street from student art.
One criticism I made earlier was that the city didn’t try to build on existing, grassroots art events like First Friday or Contemporary Art Month. Last night I realized why this would have been a bad idea. Luminaria is really a different beast from these events, which mostly rely on independent venues to do their own thing, and have very little central organization. But at the same time, these existing art events have a lot of interested parties who would probably feel that the city was hijacking their event. Luminaria needed to start fresh, and put something together that isn’t identified with a singular community, but represents the diverse artistic talents that exist throughout San Antonio. And they also needed to be able to have a strong, central organizational structure that these other events, for the most part, lack.
Overall, I think Luminaria was clearly a successful event, with plenty of room for improvement. Many of San Antonio’s best artists were not represented, but I think people got a good sense of the diversity and energy that exists in San Antonio’s artistic communities. And the city spared no expense on capping it off with a great fireworks display off the roof of the Emily Morgan.
We’ll be posting some photos later this afternoon. Stay tuned…