Arts & Culture
Una Noche en la Gloria’s Funky Foundation
Published: October 9, 2013
On the corner of Guadalupe and South Colorado, the beginnings of glory apparently occur in an unadorned studio where the only thing fighting back the surrounding vegetation is a campaign placard. There, the giant picture of Bexar County Democratic chairman Manuel Medina’s face gives me the sort of fright that indiscriminately proves that democrats can be scary, too. I make my way past the unruly greenery to the cemented area behind the studio where my appointment with Gabriel Quintero Velasquez, founder of Una Noche en la Gloria: Contemporary Art in the Cultural Zone, is to take place.
Once a neighborhood gas station, Velasquez’s studio has the feel of a New York railroad apartment. He shows me his office kitchenette, once a bathroom. “See?” He points out where the commode used to be. He’s dressed from head to toe in the de rigueur black that genuine artists don regardless the time of year. His goatee, a potent mixture of gray and a deep tenné, is perfectly cut.
Velasquez, an architect and seasoned community activist, combines his love of design and organization with a hearty West Side grito in Una Noche, which for years went by the grammatically questionable Una Noche de la Gloria. He was on the steering committee for the first two Luminaria events before stepping out on his own to create this kindred festival focused on Latino arts and artists. The event—now in its fifth year—is an arts expo only on the exterior. Underneath the bountiful community-based excitement is a workforce development project woven with a sturdy stitch of Latino activism.
But the general public isn’t really supposed to see behind the curtain. While festival-goers sway back and forth to the (increasingly) modern Chicano music and enjoy performances, visual art and a fervently anticipated fashion show, the artists themselves are learning something very particular; the business of selling their work and finding a place for themselves in the so-called the creative economy.
“In the world of enjoying your craft in the arts, there is a level of sheer joy, sheer playfulness,” Velasquez said. “There’s a society that’s just ready to go out and do La Dolce Vita, you know? Underneath that there is the need to survive and to pay bills and to sell their art.”
He explains that the creative economy is a component of San Antonio’s own economy. “That’s where people spend their money. My job is to tell my social network that they need to get that money before anybody else does … I want [artists] to discover that they have value.”
Of his Una Noche program—which gets much of its funky flavor from the West Side (imagine a Latino arts fest of this color and magnitude in the land of D2 councilwoman Ivy Taylor or D10 councilman Carlton Soules’ ’hood)—Velasquez says he “won’t say someone is in or out because their work is good or bad.”
He added, “The reason I don’t quantify anyone’s paintings or artwork is because people buy whatever they’re going to buy … And I’ve seen some people buy the worst-looking stuff.”