Courtesy of Academy of American Poets

Two Texans have received one of the highest honors a writer can achieve. Austin resident Cyrus Cassells has been named the 2022 Poet Laureate Fellow for Texas, while Houston's Outspoken Bean has been named the 2022 official Poet Laureate Fellow for Houston.

Both will receive $50,000 for the honor, as part of the $1.1 million worth of funding from the Academy awarded to 22 national fellows to support their respective public poetry programs during their year-long term.

Cassells is a tenured professor at Texas State University, and has received multiple awards for his work, including a Pushcart Prize, the Peter I. B. Lavan Younger Poets Award, and fellowships from the Guggenheim, the Lannan Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts.

He plans to hold a statewide poetry contest in honor of Juneteenth, inviting students in the 6th through 12th grades across Texas to submit entries describing what makes the day significant to them.

Ten winners will be selected; they'll receive a travel stipend to the state capital, where the contest will end with a public reading and ceremony at the Neill-Cochran House Museum. The space features Austin's only intact slave cabin and has long served as a venue for African American events and cultural exhibitions.

Judges for the contest include Texas poets Wendy Barker, Jennifer Chang, Amanda Johnston, and Roger Reeves, and Texas historian Martha Hartzog, according to the academy. The contest screeners and judges, along with the top three winners and seven honorable mentions will receive an honorarium, plus copies of Pulitzer Prize winner Annette Reed's book On Juneteenth and Edward Cotham Jr.'s Juneteenth: The Story Behind the Celebration.

Meanwhile over in Bayou City, Emanuelee Outspoken Bean is an acclaimed spoken word artist who was the first poet to perform on the Houston Ballet stage in the company's production of the popular Play. He also conceptualized and produced Plus Fest: The Everything Plus Poetry Festival. He most recently took the stage for Loveletter, the multi-disciplinary concert hosted and produced by local legend DJ Sun.

During his term as Poet Laureate Fellow, he will complete Space City Mixtape, a spoken-word and creative audio experience of Houston featuring more than 20 tracks from Houstonians telling their stories, the academy notes. Houstonians should look for him at Houston Public Library locations around Houston, as he intends to conduct bi-weekly writing sessions for the next six to eight months in order to capture stories for Space City Mixtape, which will be produced by local producer Russell Guess. Space City Mixtape is slated to be released next year.

Public Poets Laureate have been around since 1919, when the state of Colorado named the first. Fifteen other states named laureates of their own soon after. On the national level, the Library of Congress named Joseph Auslander its first Consultant in Poetry in 1937. This position was renamed the Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry in 1985.

Ada Limón is the current Poet Laureate Consultation in Poetry and was named to the position last month.

Poets Laureate at every level promote and advocate for poetry, working to not only bring attention to the art form, but also using their platform to bring attention to issues of importance in their communities. The Academy of American Poets is the largest supporter of poets around the U.S. and has donated more than $4.3 million in fellowships to 81 poets since 2019.

The other poets and the communities they represent are Andru Defeye (Sacramento, California); Ashanti Files (Urbana, Illinois); B. K. Fischer (Westchester County, New York); KaNikki Jakarta (Alexandria, Virginia); Ashley M. Jones (Alabama); Holly Karapetkova (Arlington, Virginia); Kealoha (Hawaiʻi); J. Drew Lanham (Edgefield, South Carolina); Julia B. Levine (Davis, California); Matt Mason (Nebraska); Airea D. Matthews (Philadelphia); Ray McNiece (Cleveland Heights, Ohio); Huascar Medina (Kansas); Gailmarie Pahmeier (Nevada); Catherine Pierce (Mississippi); Rena Priest (Washington); Lynne Thompson (Los Angeles); Emma Trelles (Santa Barbara, California); Gwen Nell Westerman (Minnesota); and Crystal Wilkinson (Kentucky).

Beloved San Antonio Book Festival reveals star lineup for 2022 event

Book Worms Rejoice

After being canceled in 2020 and going virtual in 2021 due to the pandemic, the San Antonio Book Festival will celebrate its 10th anniversary with in-person programming on Saturday, May 21. The free annual festival brings together a wide variety of authors from across Texas and the nation, and this year’s lineup includes renowned authors like Jericho Brown, Julia Glass, Margo Jefferson, Natalie Diaz, Emma Straub, and more.

Held at the Central Library and Southwest School of Art, the full-day event kicks off at 9:30 am with an opening ceremony featuring remarks by Mayor Ron Nirenberg and special performances by poets Andrea “Vocab” Sanderson and Naomi Shihab Nye.

“For our 10th anniversary, we could not be more thrilled to return to being in person at the Library, which has recently been restored to its glorious ‘enchilada red’ hue,” says the festival executive director, Lilly Gonzalez, in a release. “Book festivals foster a sense of community and inspire people to think beyond their individual experiences. Reading is a solitary act, and for the past two years, Texas readers have been plunged deeper into isolation, with books serving as a vital gateway to connecting with the world. It feels extra special to be able to come together for this milestone year.”

In addition to in-person events, the festival will also include an all-virtual tent with pre-recorded sessions from authors like Pulitzer Prize winner Margo Jefferson, poets David Hassler and Tyler Meier, and journalist Joshua Prager.

Texas authors abound in this year’s lineup, including Fernando A. Flores, whose book Valleyesque captures the spirit of the Texas-Mexico border. Austin-based novelists Sarah Bird and Stephen Harrigan will both be in attendance: Bird’s sweeping new novel, Last Dance on the Starlight Pier, brings 1930s Galveston to life while Harrigan’s latest, The Leopard is Loose, captures a young boy’s struggle to find his place in his family and country while growing up in 1950s America. Closer to home, the 2022 lineup features several familiar San Antonio faces such as former Mayor of San Antonio Phil Hardberger, newcomer suspense novelist Katie Gutierrez, and Judge Nelson Wolff.

The family-friendly event will also feature children’s book authors, including local writers such as Cariño Cortez, chef of La Familia Cortez Restaurants, whose book, Camila La Magica Makes Tamales, tells the story behind her family's tamale-making tradition. Fellow San Antonian Stephen Briseño will promote his book, The Notebook Keeper: A Story of Kindness From the Border, an inspiring story about a mother and daughter waiting to cross the United States border.

For more information about the San Antonio Book Festival and a full lineup of authors, head to sabookfestival.org. A detailed festival schedule will be available in April.

Photo by Sarah Brooke Lyons

Luminaria Contemporary Arts Festival lights up San Antonio with radiant new vibe

in a good light

The lights are coming back on again for 2021’s Luminaria Contemporary Arts Festival. After 2019’s 25,000-person draw and 2020’s cancellation, this year’s walk-through represents an opportunity for a forceful return from the dark.

Artists from the skipped year are rolling over the works they created in a simultaneously quiet and tumultuous year, with other, more recent works also on display November 13.

“I think the energy that the artists have brought, and their excitement is going to really feel different than previous festivals,” says executive director Yadhira Lozano, who was appointed in 2020 and will experience this year’s festival as her first in the role.

The new director is especially looking forward to the large installations that light up the night, including one projection across a giant screen on a 26-foot stage.

A few things have changed for the nonprofit since its last festival. It still offers a unique spread of art across the spectrum, from visual, to audio, to movement, and even literature. The way audiences will connect with those works is evolving. Luminaria used its pandemic-forced time inside and funds from the National Endowment for the Arts to launch an inquiry into public perception of the festival.

Since its inception in 2008 by former Mayor Phil Hardberger, the event has been free for attendees and completely driven by public interest, connecting San Antonians to the arts within the city. This time, a consultant helped the organization search for areas of improvement.

Strategic planning among artists revealed a desire for more local support and finding diversity at home instead of seeking it elsewhere. Ideas tumbled together and Luminaria is considering an artist exchange program that continues its global connections of past years while ensuring that San Antonio artists are benefiting equally.

One consensus was clear among attendees: The festival had to be an in-person event. People are tired of livestreams. Logistically, there were reports that some artists’ works had been hard to find at past events, so the festival has done away with its more conceptual programs and adopted straightforward maps. With only one path through the completely outdoor installments (another two new additions for 2021), it will be hard to miss any artist’s work.

Luminaria presented another influential finding in a paper published by the National Review of the Arts: During the pandemic, families have stuck together more than ever when going out. Instead of opening the familial “pod” to friend groups and babysitters, families are keeping their distance as independent units.

Most importantly, Luminaria learned that attendees were intrigued by art they hadn’t been interested in before, proving that the festival is doing its job. The starting point is furtive glances at weird displays, and each artist’s presence offers a portal to better insight for those willing to ask questions.

Lozano is paying attention to what’s important to both artists and audiences, hoping it will unite the entire arts scene in San Antonio. What they want is very attainable.

“People moved here from other places because they just like it here, is what they’ve been telling me,” says Lozano. “It’s no groundbreaking, inspirational quote, but it works for me.”

Tourism and military, Lozano points out, are the city’s most profitable industries, with the latter supporting the former when families come to visit. She hopes audiences will follow the artists at the festival on social media, and keep up with their work past the one-night celebration.

Particularly in 2020, Lozano’s goal is to show audiences that artists are essential workers that need support. The art scene is a nearly inexhaustible fountain of what makes San Antonio so likable. It’s a core belief that will secure funds for arts nonprofits to keep diversifying and bring communities together for what they ask for. One thing they’re asking for, revealed the outreach, is more nights of Luminaria.

“What do we turn to in the pandemic when we’re sitting on our butts at home? We’re reading books, we’re watching Netflix, we’re listening to music,” says Lozano. “Take [entertainment] away, and then what? It’s just you and your imagination. And then you become the artist. It’s part of our life force.”

Every year, the Luminaria Contemporary Arts Festival is free for all, and does not require an RSVP. The path snakes through Hemisfair, the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center, and the San Antonio River Walk on November 13 from 6 pm to midnight.

Story Time at Hemisfair returns with new chapter of in-park programming

Book it!

San Antonio parents, take note: After 16 long months of offering only virtual programming, Hemisfair is bringing back its free weekly Story Time events for kids at Yanaguana Garden, and is welcoming a special partnership with a local nonprofit that shares a knack for storytelling.

The in-person Story Time series with the San Antonio African American Community Archive and Museum kicked off Tuesday, October 5, and will take place at Hemisfair each first Tuesday of the month through May 2022.

The San Antonio African American Community Archive and Museum works to collect, preserve, and share the African American cultural heritage of the San Antonio region through a variety of exhibits and programming.

Hemisfair notes the partnership further highlights its commitment to creating experiences that embrace diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility for all San Antonio residents and visitors.

“What a great opportunity to engage children with stories and conversations illustrating that we all have a place here, this is our collective community, and because someone does not look like me does not mean I should be afraid or treat them differently,” says Deborah Omowale Jarmon, CEO and director of SAAACAM, via a release. “The opportunity for children of all ages, backgrounds, and areas of town to come together at Hemisfair, where they’ll interact and learn these lessons with each other, promotes understanding through fun engagement.”

The monthly Story Time program is the first of several collaborations that are in the works for the two organizations. SAAACAM will host nearly all its outdoor events at Hemisfair in 2022 to give local families more opportunities to explore San Antonio’s African American culture.

In addition to the in-person, in-park experience, Story Time with SAAACAM will be recorded and broadcast the second Saturday of each month on the museum’s Facebook page and YouTube channel. The sessions will also be available through SAAACAM’s Conscious Curriculum webpage and archived at the Digital Library Special Collections at Texas A&M University–San Antonio.

“Yanaguana Garden at Hemisfair is unique in that, on any given day, you see children and families of all backgrounds interacting with each other and enjoying play time,” Andres Andujar, CEO of Hemisfair, says. “This Story Time series with SAAACAM will further encourage exploration and learning about the history and culture of San Antonio’s Black and African American communities while reaching more residents who may not know that Hemisfair belongs to them.”

Though Hemisfair’s Story Time is free to attend, registration is encouraged.

Courtesy/City of San Antonio

San Antonio drafts visionary plan to support the arts

A new plan

An ambitious initiative is underway in San Antonio, one that hopes to unite the city's arts communities while also preserving historic neighborhoods facing socioeconomic and developmental challenges.

CulTÚArt is the work of the San Antonio Department of Arts and Culture, the city-led organization overseeing Centro de Artes and spearheading strategies for film, art funding guidelines, public art, cultural districts framework, and music.

On December 10, the San Antonio Arts Commission met to get an update on CulTÚArt. The city has also held meetings with stakeholder groups and open houses to collect feedback and ideas.

Developing a brand
Debbie Racca-Sittre, director of the arts and culture department, recently said on Texas Public Radio’s The Source that a strategic plan like CulTÚArt could better help tell the world what San Antonio’s diverse arts community truly means, looks and sounds like, collectively.

“We want to set up a level of sustainability and maybe even set up a brand,” she said.

The arts in San Antonio do mean a lot economically, and could mean a lot more if developed into a "brand," as Racca-Sittre says. The city estimated the creative community’s total economic impact at nearly $4 million in 2016. That includes design and advertising, museums and collections, art schools and programs, photography and culinary arts, print and broadcasting and related activities, and independent artists, writers, and performers.

Bridging the gap
The draft plan also talks about the local cultural landscape. Southern Methodist University’s National Center for Arts Research scores every U.S. county based on measures of money spent on the arts, arts providers, government support, and socio-economic and other arts-related recreational characteristics. Bexar County scored high in terms of local government support for arts providers, but the county scores very low in socioeconomic measures. CulTÚArt would help bridge this gap.

Arts Commission member Suhail Arastu said on The Source that the plan would enable San Antonio to “celebrate internationally this confluence of living arts and authentic cultures, and this will inspire more participation and pride in all of the arts.”

The city's plan contains a survey that Visit San Antonio did with out-of-town visitors and found that more than three quarters enjoyed attending major local arts-related events, such as Fiesta, and the Diwali and Dia de los Muertos celebrations.

But despite an abundance of arts-related events, there are barriers — and not just for out-of-towners. Those barriers include typical admission cost, times, and locations.

Many of those surveyed also wanted to see an increase in arts programming specific to Mexican/Latinx, indigenous and Native American cultures, and women. More than 90 percent of those surveyed wanted see even more public art, such as the new art garden that the city is developing along the River Walk.

Opened in early November, the River Walk Public Art Garden serves as an outdoor museum of sorts, containing permanent and rotating installations. Permanent artworks on display include mosaic murals created by Mexican artists Juan O' Gorman and Carlos Merida for the 1968 World's Fair, and Sebastian's iconic sculpture Torch of Friendship, which marks the entry to Phase I of the garden along the River Walk close to South Alamo and Market streets.

“In the next few years this space will be transformed into an outdoor art gallery that people can visit and find incredible art from San Antonio artists as well as international artists like Sebastian,” Racca-Sittre said in a press release.

CulTÚArt also includes a robust plan for San Antonio’s music scene. The arts and culture department has a music commission, and San Antonio last year was certified as a Music Friendly Community through the Texas Music Office.

But that’s just the start. Among other things, the music plan calls for establishing historical markers, partnering with academic institutions, and possibly hosting a music conference with academics and writers.

The music plan also recommends using incentives and tax exemptions to nurture the development of musicians and music-related businesses, and helping to build up professionalism in the industry through networking and cross-promotions.

But as the city works toward finalizing the overall CulTÚArt strategic plan, some local artists complain the plan does not address funding streams for individual artists, something that other major Texas cities offer to their arts communities.

Marisela Barrera is using her Facebook page to ask fellow San Antonio artists to call upon city leaders to boost individual artists through public grants and other means.

“In prior years, the department of arts and culture did a set aside fund to be able to award small grants to individual artists,” Malena Gonzalez-Cid, Centro Cultural Aztlan’s executive director, wrote.

“While the grants were small, around $5,000, they served as startup funds for important projects or professional development. Bring back individual art grants!”

The City Council is expected to consider the overall strategic plan for final approval in January.

Courtesy of Avenida Guadalupe Association

San Antonio's West Side writes first chapter on brand-new book festival

The Write Stuff

A new book festival designed to celebrate the magic of reading and promote the tradition of San Antonio storytellers debuts this September. Pachanga de Palabras: A Westside Book Festival will host its first-ever event on Saturday, September 28, from 6-10 pm at the Plaza Guadalupe.

The free, family-friendly event is open the public and includes book and zine vendors, live music, poets, interactive workshops for children and adults, a drag king story time, and food vendors.

Pachanga de Palabras was organized by Echale Books, a traveling pop-up bookshop. Echale recently installed a Little Free Library by Las Palmas Elementary School. The group specializes in Chicanx/Latinx/bilingual/Spanish, feminist, LGBTQI, and progressive books, although it offers genres of all kinds.

Gianna Rendon, founder of Echale Books, is a West Side native. Her love of books stems from the numerous times her mom took her to the library during her childhood.

“We didn't have a lot of money, but we had all the books I could've wanted at the library,” she says.

Rendon founded Echale Books two years ago in response to President Trump’s election and as a way to help neighbors to access a diverse range of literature, particularly books by and about Latinx, feminista, and queer authors. She also sought to provide bilingual and Spanish language books.

“I consider many of our country's problems [as] stemming from ignorance, so I seek to offer people alternative view points,” says Rendon.

According to Rendon, Pachanga de Palabras will be an opportunity for people to learn about the challenges and triumphs of West Side community members past and present.

“The West Side has and still experiences institutionalized racism, which also includes the stereotyping [of] its people as stupid/criminals/lazy/no good,” Rendon says. “By celebrating the stories of the West Side, we seek to show West Siders how amazing and culturally rich they are as well as [show] the rest of San Antonio that our stories matter.”

That diversity will be on display in such activities as the drag king story time by La Voz de Los MENtirosos, San Antonio’s only drag king troupe. Poets from The Pride Center-San Antonio's monthly Queer Voices Speak Out program and IndigeNecias, an all-indigenous woman group, will also perform.

More than 30 vendors are scheduled to be at the event, representing many parts of San Antonio, including Aztlan Lubre Press, Bexar County's BiblioTech digital library, Ericfi.Zines, Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center, Fiesta Youth, FlowerSong Books, Libraries Without Borders, and many more.

Like Rendon, many of these vendors live in or are active on the West Side, where community advocates are combating socioeconomic challenges in different ways. Organizers say the book festival is another way to even the playing field.

San Antonio’s leaders acknowledge that the Alamo City has one of the lowest literacy rates in Texas, and local bookshops often struggle to find an audience. Rendon says this event is an opportunity to help open a new chapter for locals.

“This book festival is not your average book festival,” Rendon said. “There will be music that makes you cry, skits that make you laugh. It will be loud. There will be dancing. Lots of chisme shared.”

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CultureMap Emails are Awesome

San Antonio suburb among the richest places in Texas for 2023, plus more top stories

Hot Headlines

Editor’s note: It’s that time again — time to check in with our top stories. Here are five articles that captured our collective attention over the past seven days.

1. San Antonio suburb cashes in among the richest places in Texas for 2023. Alamo Heights has been renamed the third richest place in Texas for 2023 in a recent study.

2. San Antonio home sales slowed in December 2022, report finds. San Antonio sold 36,477 homes all year, a 10 percent decrease from 2021.

3. Here are the top 5 things to do in San Antonio this weekend. Nina Simone, Pink Floyd, the Beatles and more music-centered events made our roundup of the best things to do in Alamo City this weekend.

4. San Antonio Home & Garden Show returns with HGTV star. Ati Williams will headline the San Antonio Spring Home & Garden Show, which takes place February 24-26.

5. H-E-B opens first location in growing San Antonio suburb. The state-of-the-art facility offers 110,000 square feet of floor space, providing everything from cat food to charcuterie.

Popular Pearl brunch spot remixes with new weekend DJ nights


Though Full Goods Diner has barely been open for half a year, it has already become a San Antonio staple for working weekday lunches and lingering Sunday Fundays. Now the Pearl eatery is looking to be a hot spot after dark.

Via release, the popular local haunt just announced a new limited-time music series, Full Goods at Night. Starting on February 2, Full Goods Diner will open select evenings throughout the month.

The Full Goods at Night series will feature popular local San Antonio DJs, including El West Side Sound, Hector Gallego, DJ Plata, Steven Lee Moya, and Cami Gee. Guests can enjoy live sets while indulging in a specially curated food and drink offerings.

The menu will include some of Full Goods Diner's best—selling items, such as French toast sticks, barbacoa waffle fries, and jumbo cheesy tots. Libations like the Attaboy Negroni, Royal Bermuda Daiquiri, Pink G&T, and more will fuel the festivities.

In addition to enjoying moonlight brunch, guests can relish some prime people-watching. And, of course, the restaurant is just a hop from other nightlife destinations like Pink Hill, 3 Star Bar, and Summer Camp Bar, making it the perfect party starter.

The series runs every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday from February 2-25, 6-10 pm. The complete DJ schedule is listed below.

February 2 — El West Side Sound·
February 3 — Hector Gallego
February 4— DJ Plata
February 9 — El West Side Sound
February 10 — Steven Lee Moya
February 11 — Cami Gee
February 16 — El West Side Sound
February 17 — Steven Lee Moya
February 18 — Hector Gallego
February 23 — El West Side Sound
February 24— Steven Lee Moya
February 25 — DJ Plata

4 San Antonio culinary pioneers win $21K from the Texas Food & Wine Alliance


Texas’ skyrocketing culinary scene is about to get a huge boost. The Texas Food & Wine Alliance’s grant program has awarded $107,500 to 19 culinary innovators around the state. This marks the Alliance’s 11th year providing funding to support culinary projects contributing to local communities.

The award winners were announced in a ceremony at Austin's Holdsworth Center on January 21. A private panel of distinguished culinary experts chose the winners out of 40 grant applications this year. Nine winners hail from Austin, three from Dallas-Fort Worth, three from Houston, and four from San Antonio. The awards range from $1,500 to $10,000, with a special $25,000 grant investment from Austin favorite Tito’s Handmade Vodka in honor of the company’s 25th anniversary. Grant funding will support chefs, farms, and culinary education groups, among others.

Out of the four San Antonio area winners, Talking Tree Farm received the most from the grant program, $6,250 to purchase shipping containers for storage and to buy a solar-powered cold room for their harvests. John Marshall High School’s culinary arts program will use their $5,000 grant to establish a morning café. Agricultural project Habitable Spaces and pasture-raised chicken farm Cielito Lindo Farm also won $5,000 each to purchase equipment or build infrastructure to further their endeavors in the culinary space.

Austin-area winners received the most funding from the grant program, totalling $53,750, while San Antonio winners received $21,250 in total. Dallas/Fort Worth winners were awarded $19,750, and the three Houston recipients won $12,750. All of the 2022 winners reflect just how diverse the state's trailblazing culinary scene continues to expand.

“All of this year’s funded projects will further enrich the state through innovation and giveback,” said Erika White, executive director of the Alliance. “We’re extremely grateful to each of the Texas communities, our sponsors and their support in allowing us to reward these mold-breaking projects.”

In Austin, organic farm Trosi Farms was awarded the most funding ($10,000), which will help construct a germination shed for more stable plant start production. Locavore pioneer Boggy Creek Farm won $7,500 in grants to provide ADA-compliant accessibility to their new climate-controlled Tomato House, while Texas’ first organic feed mill, Coyote Creek Organic Feed Mill & Farm, received $6,250 to help purchase a building to be used as a store for the local community.

The six other Austin area grant recipients, each winning $5,000, include Vista Farms at Vista Brewing, Jamaican family business Tierra Todun ATX, coffee roasters Rising Tide Roast Collaborative, culinary educator Chef Pascal Simon from Bake Austin, East Austin food truck Community Vegan, and Latinx pastry project Comadre Panaderia (who also just earned a James Beard nomination). All winners will be able to use their grants to improve efficiency and expand their businesses, or in Chef Pascal's case, further research and development for her upcoming cookbook for Gen-Z young adults.

After starting the program in Austin, grant co-chair and TFWA past president Cathy Cochran-Lewis says it was the Alliance’s dream to expand the grant statewide.

“We’re so humbled and thrilled to now not only support worthwhile projects across Texas but also to give more than a half million dollars in funding over the last decade to help dreams come true,” she says. “This is a tribute to the culinary talent and the community mindset we are lucky to have in our state.”

The winners in the Dallas-Fort Worth and Houston areas include:

For this year's Honorable Mention, the Alliance chose San Antonio eatery Tacos Cucuy, who will soon open a brick-and-mortar space with an expanded menu. Tacos Cucuy are currently looking for support to develop a Tex-Mex charcuterie program called La Cura Carnes Especiales.

More information about the 2022 grants and its recipients can be found on texasfoodandwinealliance.org.