Luminaria was founded in 2008 by then-mayor Phil Hardberger, a passionate supporter of the arts who was inspired by two night-time multi-genre festivals: Nuit Blanche in Paris, and Madrid’s La Noche en Blanco. Mayor Hardberger and his team of volunteer organizers recognized that the creative community of San Antonio deserves a night arts festival. And in a city renowned for annual public celebrations, Luminaria would hold a unique role — spotlighting the arts as an important part of city life, while illuminating our historic downtown. It’s a role that Luminaria fulfills every year.

Since March 2008, San Antonio artists have showcased new theatrical and dance performances, film screenings, light projections, creative demonstrations, live music ranging from garage bands to orchestras, and other site-specific experiences. And each year, Luminaria has embraced an ever-larger audience as the arts community came together to experiment, collaborate, and innovate on a large scale.

For its first three years, Luminaria lit up the historic area surrounding the Alamo, occupying nearby spaces in transition. 2008 took place in Alamo Plaza, along Peacock Alley, and within then-empty storefronts on Navarro Street. In 2009, a pop-up exhibition space was staged in the soon-to-be-renovated Convention Center, visual artists occupied the empty shop windows of the former Joske’s department store, and the streets were closed to roving performers.

Luminaria illuminated Hemisfair Park from 2011 through 2013. The arts festival enlivened Hemisfair’s underutilized gazebos, storage sheds, and other buildings with live music, projections, and light sculptures at every turn. The audience grew, and participating artists were invited from San Antonio’s sister cities, beginning with Gwangju, South Korea.

Beginning in 2014, Luminaria expanded from a single night to a weekend event. The festival also transitioned to the River North district, including the newly opened Tobin Center for the Performing Arts. The 2015 Luminaria partnered with the Museum Reach neighborhood, San Antonio Museum of Art and nearby businesses. A hurricane dampened the original weekend, so “Take Two” events were orchestrated at later dates. Eastside community integration took precedence in 2016’s festival, and Luminaria received an award from Centro San Antonio as Best Downtown Event. The 2017 festival returned to a newly redeveloped Hemisfair Park, providing a fresh experience in a familiar venue where it will remain through 2020.

Luminaria highlights San Antonio as a city of the arts. A changing roster of directors, curators, producers, and advisory boards built a brilliant history. A growing organization The organization continues to expand opportunities for artists while inspiring tens of thousands in the weekend festival.

Luminaria is an independent non-profit organization and embraces all artistic disciplines. The next Luminaria Contemporary Arts Festival will take place November 9, 2019 in San Antonio.