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You may still be Christmas shopping (or you may not have started — no judgment), but it's never too early to start planning for New Year's Eve. The City of San Antonio is certainly thinking ahead, announcing the return of Celebrate SA, the citywide celebration on Saturday, December 31.

Drawing more than 70,000 partygoers annually, San Antonio's official New Year's Eve party features live music and fireworks. This year's theme is "Dancing in the Streets," and will take place from 6 pm to midnight in the heart of downtown. According to a release, the official party boundaries will be on South Alamo Street between Market Street and Cesar Chavez Boulevard, along Villita Street, and at the Arneson River Theatre.

South Alamo Street will likely be the busiest, where crowds can enjoy live entertainment on the South Alamo Main Stage. Produced by the San Antonio Parks Foundation and the City of San Antonio, performances will range from iconic westside soul group, Eddie & The Valiants, to indie rock powerhouse, John Charlie’s Heavy Love, and DJ Isaiahfromtexas will bring open-format sets to dance the night year away.

Meanwhile, at the River Walk, the Boogie Bend stage at the Arneson River Theatre will host next-generation Chicano music sets from LA 45, as well as performances by JOAQUIN and a a genre-bending mix of sounds from DJ Lovedocument,

“We’re delighted to showcase our refreshed branding on the eve of 2023, surrounded by the San Antonio community. Our Core Values of Equity, Conservation, Culture, Community, Education, and People drive our work ensuring quality parks and park programming is enjoyed by San Antonians for years to come,” says Libby Day, director of communications for the San Antonio Parks Foundation, in a release. “The Foundation gives thanks to our Board of Directors and the team at Parallel A Brand Agency for their tireless determination to cultivate cohesive assets that tell the full story of our decades-long dedication to San Antonio and Bexar County parks.”

There will be plenty of family-friendly activities at the event as well, including a carnival. Local food and artisan vendor booths will offer diverse options, including beer, wine, and seasonal hot drinks, with beverage proceeds benefiting San Antonio and Bexar County parks.

Of course, a communal countdown will cap the party at midnight, followed by a spectacular fireworks show.

“The City of San Antonio looks forward to welcoming all of San Antonio and our visitors to downtown for this annual celebration. A Texas-sized thank you to our teams for working together to produce a safe and fun event for the community as we welcome the New Year together,” says John Jacks, director of the Center City Development and Operations Department, in the release.

And for those who prefer to ring in the New Year at home, Channel News4 San Antonio will broadcast the celebration live, starting at 10:30 pm.

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CultureMap Emails are Awesome

Sneak peek inside San Antonio chef Steve McHugh's new Austin restaurant

Officially cured

Bucking the recent (and growing) trend of Austinites moving to San Antonio, chef Steve McHugh just debuted his first concept in Austin. The eagerly-awaited Luminaire opened February 1 at the new Hyatt Centric Congress Avenue Austin, along with a second concept, Las Bis.

Located at 721 Congress Avenue, details of the new hotel and its restaurants were released in fall 2022, sparking excitement from anyone already familiar with McHugh's work at Cured and Landrace. For the initial announcement, CultureMap connected with the six-time James Beard finalist to hear what to expect at the new outpost, while an updated announcement this week revealed that McHugh has enlisted chef Greg Driver as executive chef at the new concepts.

“We’re thrilled to finally lift the curtain and bring in guests to dine with us,” says Chef Steve McHugh in a release. “Chef Driver and I work really well together, and I have no doubt that Luminaire and Las Bis will shine under his leadership.”

Previously the interim executive chef at Austin's Westwood Country Club, Driver will carry out McHugh's vision at the restaurants. Both new concepts and the hotel itself will no doubt be a welcome addition to downtown Austin, padding out the list of pre- and post-theatre dining options for entertainment at the city's historic Paramount and State theatres next door.

Luminaire occupies the entire ground floor of the hotel, including an expansive patio stretching both sides of the corner along Congress Avenue and 8th Street. Much like its San Antonio counterparts, the full-service restaurant will feature the seasonal, local Texas fare and charcuterie well-known (and well-loved) by McHugh devotees. Along with specially curated meat boards (hello, 24-month jamon), the menu will also showcase a heavy Spanish influence, featuring a variety of delicious breakfast empanadas, chicken a la plancha, the Angus beef Luminaire burger, and more.

The all-day restaurant will be an ideal pre-curtain-time destination, while the upstairs Las Bis will take over for post-show nightcaps. Located on the eighth floor of the hotel, the terrace bar and lounge shares space with the hotel’s lobby and will feature craft cocktails, natural and biodynamic wines. Snacks will include an assortment of playfully plated conservas, both domestic and imported, which McHugh shared the story behind in our previous coverage.

“Our team put many thoughtful hours into the menu creation for Luminaire and Las Bis, blending familiar flavors with plenty of discovery,” says McHugh in this week's latest release. “And for those without much experience in cured meats and conservas, we made sure to include plenty of must-try items to introduce folks the right way.”

In addition to the two new concepts, McHugh’s team and executive chef Driver will provide room service for guests, as well as catering for the hotel’s four meeting and event spaces. Starting February 1, Luminaire will be open Monday through Sunday from 6 am to 11 pm, while Las Bis will open Sunday through Thursday, 4 pm to midnight, and noon to midnight on Friday and Saturday.

Photo by Mary Whitten

A sneak peak at Luminaire.

Historic San Antonio venue chugs ahead with new owners and all-day music festival

JUST THE TICKET

Music will soon be back in the air at one of San Antonio's most historic venues. Ambassador Theatre Group, the company behind the Majestic and Empire Theatres, has taken over The Espee in St. Paul's Square and is celebrating with an all-day music festival.

The move is the latest chapter for the Spanish Mission Revival complex, built in 1902 by the Southern Pacific Railroad. In 2019, a development group redubbed the site The Espee as a nod to the former train route's abbreviation, "The SP." 2021 saw the depot transformed into the swanky 1902 Nightclub.

Ambassador has gussied up the venue with enhanced sound and lighting, renovated artist accommodations, a tour production office, satellite bar areas, landscaping, and refreshed restrooms. The improvements gel with St. Paul Square's vision of bringing more entertainment and nightlife to the district without compromising its history or architecture.

Guests can check out the revamped space during All Aboard on March 4, a daylong party featuring The Head and The Heart, Danielle Ponder, Grupo Fantasma, UPSAHL, Golden Dawn Arkestra, Mike and The Moonpies, and DJ sets from Bartees Strange. Doors open at 2:30 pm, with performances starting at 3 pm.

Tickets are on sale now and partially benefit local nonprofit San Antonio for Growth on the Eastside (SAGE), which champions investments that improve the quality of life for individuals, families, neighborhoods, and businesses in the area.

The show is only the first experience the revived venue is set to deliver. "Vicious" hitmaker Sabrina Carpenter is set to bring her Emails I Can't Send Tour to the Espee on March 25. The San Antonio African American Community Archive and Museum will hold its Fiesta Family Blues festival on April 28. More programming will be announced throughout the year.

"The Espee is the perfect addition to San Antonio's growing entertainment landscape – from venues and musical performances to community gatherings and everything in between," said Emily Smith, Ambassador general manager, via a release. "This unique, beautiful, and historic space will bring even more creative experiences to San Antonio for the entire community to enjoy."



6 San Antonio exhibits to warm your heart and soul this February

State of the Arts

All you need is art this month in Alamo City with fresh and fearless exhibits: Some will tickle your fancy; others, your psyche. Explore JooYoung Choi’s imaginary world at The Contemporary, or immerse yourself in the history of the Mexican-American War of 1848 with representations from various artists at the Centro Cultural Aztlan. Guy Blair brings San Antonio’s unhoused population into careful focus with painted portraits at the Semmes Gallery, while the San Antonio Museum of Art transports viewers into “Roman Landscapes” providing birds-eye perspectives and fantastical views. There's something for everyone this February.

Centro Cultural Aztlan

“Segundo de Febrero: Chicana/Chicano Reunion” — Now through February 24
February 2 marks the 175th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. The landmark treaty ended the Mexican-American War, redistributed the border, and created a new bicultural population. In this exhibition, a group of celebrated artists will explore the impact of broken treaties, new borders, and their effects on Latino, Chicano, and indigenous history and culture.

The Contemporary at Blue Star

“JooYoung Choi: Songs of Resilience from the Tapestry of Faith” — February 3 through May 7
Through painting, video, sculpture, animation, music ,and installation art, multidisciplinary world-builder JooYoung Choi documents the interconnecting narratives of a highly structured, expansive, fictional land she calls the "Cosmic Womb." Her work explores issues of identity, belonging, trauma, and resilience through the sci-fi/fantasy genre. This exhibition introduces the Cosmic Womb multiverse and highlights some of its key characters and narratives. In creating a world that explores loss, healing, and growth based upon a connective web of belief and faith in oneself, Choi expresses human resiliency and the strength that can be found through the power of storytelling.

Centro de Artes

“Soy de Tejas: A Statewide Survey of Latinx Art” — February 9 through July 2
Soy de Tejas presents the works of 40 native Texan and Texas-based contemporary artists who reflect the diverse and beautiful complexity of Latinx identities. The more than 100 artworks forge new connections and explore intersections from a nexus of artists who ambitiously blaze a trail of contemporary artmaking, presenting fresh Latinx perspectives and experiences while amplifying the voices of a segment of Texas' most inspiring established and emerging artists. “The exhibit explores themes ranging from race, class, and gender to migration, mythmaking, displacement, and indigeneity," says curator Rigoberto Luna on the gallery's website. "In contrast, many works center on celebrating joyful customs, culture, and traditions that unite and sustain our communities in the face of a multitude of challenges."

Semmes Gallery - University of the Incarnate Word

“Homeless in San Antonio” — February 17 through March 17
Guy Blair is largely self-taught as an artist in the medium of pastels and watercolor. He always wanted “to do” art but was devoted to his ministry as a priest. For the past 40 years as a Catholic priest, he has ministered to both the deaf and homeless communities. In the past eight years, he has seriously paid attention to his desire to paint. This exhibit is a blending of his service to the homeless as well as his interest in art. “As we walk by homeless people on the streets of San Antonio, most people tend to look through them or judge them as perhaps deserving of the situation they are in,” Blair said in an artist statement. “This attitude allows people to build an emotional barrier, giving them permission not to connect with the homeless as destitute people whose suffering and tears are as real as our own.”

The Carver Cultural Community Center

“Alain Gakwaya"— February 23 through April 14
Alain Gakwaya hails from Rwanda and is a self-described, “activist, artist, and adventurer.” His love for art began in the 3rd grade, when his teacher requested that he draw for his entire class. Specializing in portraiture, Gakwaya paints to tell his story and the stories of his homeland. Though he's now based in San Antonio, he draws inspiration from everyday life in Africa and specifically his home country of Rwanda.

San Antonio Museum of Art

Courtesy of the Carver Cultural Community Center

Alain-Gakwaya's work is coming to the Carver Cultural Community Center this month.

“Roman Landscapes: Visions of Nature and Myth from Rome and Pompeii” — February 24 through May 21
The exhibition features 65 wall paintings, sculptures, mosaics, and cameo glass and silver vessels created in Roman Italy between 100 BC and AD 250. “Roman Landscapes” introduces visitors to the cultural and archaeological contexts of Roman landscapes, beginning with mural paintings and relief sculptures that depict coastal villas and rustic shrines. These works display the imaginary aspects of Roman images of the natural world, connecting the genre’s appearance to the political and social upheaval of the late Republic and early Empire. Fantastical views of Egypt and Greece reflect ancient fascination with these celebrated lands incorporated into the Roman Empire. Mythological paintings then reveal landscape scenes as settings for hazardous encounters between humans and the gods.