“Our Step, Our Hope: Sister Cities: Gwangju to San Antonio”

New Artpace exhibition highlights 40-year-long friendship between San Antonio and Gwangju, South Korea

Chloe Williams, Web and Social Editor

Gwangju, South Korea and San Antonio, Texas have been sister cities since 1982. Over the last 40 years, the two cities — despite being over 7,000 miles apart — have developed a friendship centered around the arts. 

Gwangju and San Antonio became sister cities following the Gwangju Uprising in 1980. Gwangju is in the Jeolla-do Province of South Korea, characterized by a strong history. Historically, Gwangju citizens have never backed down and have always stood up to injustices. Gwangju served at the forefront of the democracy movement in South Korea. Not only did the protective “Gwangju Spirit” bring them to democracy, but their influence and perseverance have influenced countless democratic movements across the world. In Korean, Gwangju means “light province,” and they certainly serve as a lighthouse for democracy, art and culture.  

  This friendship between the sister cities is evident through the construction of a Soswaewon Garden assembled by Gwangju artisans in Denman Estate Park. Gwangju artists’ participation in the Luminaria Contemporary Art Festival since 2015 and the installation of a light sculpture by San Antonio artist Cakky Brawley at the Kimdaejung Convention Center in Gwangju. 

In celebration of 40 years of friendship, several events were hosted throughout San Antonio including an unveiling and movie screening at Mission Marquee Plaza on Sept. 7 and an art exhibition from the Gwangju Museum of Art to San Antonio, “Our Step, Our Hope: Sister Cities: Gwangju to San Antonio,” at Artpace on Sept. 8. 

The opening event included an unveiling of the outdoor photo exhibit showcasing elements of Korean culture that display and represent Gwangju’s recognition as a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Memory of the World city. The event also included brief speeches from notable city officials including San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg, family activities, food, K-pop dances and a screening of the Gwangju set film, “A Taxi Driver.” 

The following reception on Sept. 8 at Artpace included the opening of the Hudson Showroom exhibition to “Sister Cities: Gwangju to San Antonio.” This exhibition highlights Korean artists across mediums. Featured artists include Hwang Young-Sung, Woo Jaegil, Cheng Seon Hooi, Lim Namjin, Seol Park, Haru K, Lee Jung Ki, Jo Eun-sol, Lim Yonghyun and Lee Leenam. Through their multimedia art, messages of history and the soul of Gwangju are portrayed. 

The opening reception also featured another form of art that Gwangju and South Korea are well known for: food. Three chefs from Gwangju served the exhibition showcasing their favorite cultural and revolutionary dishes from their hometown. These dishes serve significance to Korean culture and the Gwangju experience. One plate, a fried rice ball, commemorated a dish served to soldiers as they fought for democracy in Gwangju. The art and culinary delights show just how deserving Gwangju is of its UNESCO Creative City of Media title. 

The celebration worth experiencing, “Our Step, Our Hope: Sister Cities: Gwangju to San Antonio” will be on display at Artpace, 445 N Main Ave. until Jan. 1, 2023. Experience the Gwangju Spirit and honor the meaningful 40-year-long friendship. 

The “Gwangju: City of Light and Democracy” outdoor photo showcase will be available for free every day from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. through Oct. 14 at Mission Marquee Plaza, 3100 Roosevelt Ave.