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Artifacts

An open letter to Luminaria

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Dear Luminaria organizers,

Congratulations on successfully rescheduling and staging Luminaria, the city's largest art fest, at HemisFair Park last weekend after the original March date was rained out. You only lost a few performers due to scheduling conflicts, so the art party went on full bore with bigger crowds than ever. Good job. Your new procedure of bringing out-of-town experts to choose the artists looked good on paper, and the mix of talent at the event certainly wasn't just the "in crowd." The kids' stuff was definitely improved. Press reports have been glowing (sorry) with praise, but we have a few quibbles.

First off, give us more light. Remember last year when the zones, each with a color name, were marked with lights in the corresponding hue? That was nice, not only was it easier to find the different areas, but the plethora of glowing markers added to the "Arts Come to Light" ambience. OK, there were many more light-projections this year, but without the ground lights even the main drag felt dimly lit.

Secondly, what's with the ground-level stages? And yes, there were lots of them, blocked from view by small audiences standing close. Come on, get some staging. Where you had it, it worked. Another thing that worked were the extended 40-minute music sets. Please keep them. Kids were everywhere. The Come Play with Me interactive theater was jammed early in the evening, but we wish the fabulous Whoop Dee Doo group had been liberated from the obscure basement of the Women's Pavilion.

Now, about that visual art. More performance and light-based stuff this year, but please find some big pieces. The artworks seemed dwarfed by the crowds. Speaking of crowds, it seemed that your outside curators might have been overly concerned about choosing what is often called "accessible" art. Come on, this is San Antonio, crowds throng around quirky "difficult" art all the time. There's a healthy amount of risky business happening in SA on a regular basis, but at Luminaria this year — not so much. A few performance works, such as Gary Sweeny & Hyperbubble, and visiting artist Irvin Morazon's motorcycle brigade, made the grade. But come on. This is supposed to be a contemporary art fest. Instead it bordered on being a visual-art-free zone, filled instead with generic, simple-minded projections. Even car dealerships can manage a light show. But it ain't art.

Sincerely,
Scott Andrews

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