Luminaria, the annual festival celebrating artistic displays of light, marked its 15th anniversary on Saturday at HemisFair in San Antonio. While light projections, physical sculptures, and paintings were on display, the festival also showcased the significant role of music in the celebration. According to the festival’s Executive Director, Yadhira Hozano, Luminaria aims to showcase all forms of art, transcending genres, ethnicities, genders, and age groups.
Over 200 working artists dedicated ten months of preparation for this year’s Luminaria, resulting in a diverse range of art installations, films, dances, fine arts, poetry, and, of course, music. Notably, the majority of these artists, painters, and musicians were local, reflecting the vibrant San Antonio culture. However, amidst the local talent, one exception stood out: Dwayne Verheyden, a musician who traveled all the way from the Netherlands to participate in the festival.
Max Baca, who plays the 12-string Bajo Sexto for Texmaniacs, had a special connection to Verheyden. As a young child, Baca watched Verheyden perform on stage and was inspired by his artistry. Now, the two musicians have not only become friends but have also collaborated on recordings. Verheyden’s exposure to San Antonio music styles, such as Conjunto, came through his father, and seeing Baca play alongside Flaco Jiménez in his hometown of Montefort motivated him to learn to play the accordion. Together, Baca and Verheyden created beautiful music at Luminaria, showcasing the power of culture and music to bridge distances.
Dwayne Verheyden’s journey from the Netherlands to San Antonio for Luminaria exemplifies how the festival creates a platform for cultural blending. The festival’s Executive Director, Yadhira Hozano, emphasized their commitment to inclusivity, welcoming artists from all backgrounds to participate. Hozano believes that the heart of the festival lies in the in-person experience, where artists and audiences reflect and interact with each other. This interaction can occur on stage, through live mural painting on canvases, or within interactive art installations.
For Verheyden, the experience of performing at Luminaria and witnessing the crowd’s energy was nothing short of beautiful. At just 17 years old, he began his professional accordion career in 2009 and has since mastered the style to the extent that he can sing Spanish songs in his native Dutch. This unique blend of cultures and languages at Luminaria exemplifies the festival’s ability to unite diverse art forms and foster cultural understanding.
As Luminaria celebrated its 15th year, it continues to serve as a testament to the power of art to transcend boundaries and connect people from different backgrounds. The festival’s combination of light displays, visual art, and music creates an atmosphere that is both captivating and thought-provoking. Luminaria truly reflects the essence of San Antonio’s rich cultural heritage while embracing the diversity of artistic expression.