Why Luminaria and SXSW are not the same
Yesterday Ben Olivo who writes the Downtown Blog for the Express-News posted an entry about why Luminaria shouldn’t aspire to become SXSW. It’s an interesting piece and highlights something that’s probably been brewing in a lot of people’s minds as the local arts festival grows in participation. I’ve even heard Mayor Castro mention the thought, though I think he’s really referring more to the creativity and celebration of the experience more than trying to overtake SXSW. I agree with Ben but maybe from a little bit different perspective.
Granted I’ve never been to Luminaria since it was conceived two years ago. You see I started attending SXSW Interactive when Luminaria launched and have been attending ever since. As a technology researcher at USAA it’s important for me to stay abreast of the latest technology trends and network with industry leaders regarding technology. SXSWi is probably one of my greatest finds for such an experience, being just right up the road. I can attend SXSWi for the cost of registration at some conferences around the nation. At 15,000 people and ten locations it’s technology overload.
But that’s just one facet of SXSW. There’s the Film Festival where many great films have launched and where film producers, both mainstream and indie, come to gather, share ideas, and network. This year Jake Gyllenhaa hit Austin to promote his new movie “Source Code” among other activities. Years past have had other notable film celebrities and hits grace the screens of Austin as the festival has grown.
Then there’s the granddaddy that started it all, the Music Festival. I can’t remember how many bands will be playing in venues throughout Austin but the number is pretty high. It’s what makes SXSW a great experience for people around the nation to come to the self-proclaimed Music Capitol of the World. To most people SXSW means music foremost.
So then why is there such a question? Apparently some want to see our local festival grow into a SXSW, maybe out of jealousy for our neighbor up the road for having such a successful event. Sure it’d be great from a business perspective to fill all the hotels, bars, and restaurants in the city but is that really what we’re trying to achieve with Luminaria?
As Olivo states “Luminaria is a showcase of mostly local artists, while SXSW showcases bands/movies/technology worldwide. As Luminaria grows, maybe it bends in the direction of more out-of-town artists, but it shouldn’t by much.” In my mind that’s really what you’re trying to accomplish with Luminaria, to showcase to all of San Antonio what our arts community is about and increase awareness of art in San Antonio.
Can Luminaria achieve what SXSW has done over the past 25 years? According to Rob Rubio in an article in the Express-News about Luminaria it appears the idea is floating. “We get compared with other events around the area that have been at it for 25, 30 years,” said Rubio. While that might be achievable it can only happen if you move the dates to some other period and not conflict with SXSW. Ask any SX attendee and there’s just no comparison nor desire to leave the Austin festival.
So let’s quit fooling ourselves and trying to become something not achievable. Keep building Luminaria and hope it raises arts awareness. But don’t go making out like a fool thinking you can draw away from SX. You’ll spend a lot of money and never see any results.