In San Antonio mariachi music is much more than three guys in sombreros serenading couples on the River Walk, as will be shown at the twentieth Mariachi Vargas Extravaganza, the largest and longest-running mariachi gathering in the state. The festival commences with Mariachi Mass at Mission San José, known as the “Queen of the Missions,” where those lucky enough to get in will experience a Mexican custom brought to Texas in 1969 by Jesse and Josephine Orta of San Antonio. In addition to religious exaltation, the festival empowers about a thousand students through workshops and performances and perhaps affords them the opportunity to take their regional music to a national level. “A couple of years ago, there was a professor from the Berklee College of Music, and he couldn’t believe it,” said Cynthia Muñoz, the festival’s organizer. “He turned to me and said, ‘These are the kids we want coming to our school.’” This seven-day event culminates with a concert by Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlán, the standard-bearing big band founded in 1898 in Jalisco, Mexico. This will be the first extravaganza for the band’s musical director, Carlos Martínez, who succeeded his uncle, Jose Martínez Sr., known as “Pepe,” the leader for nearly four decades.
Various locations, Nov. 16-22, mariachimusic.com
The digital age is challenging libraries to change the way they do business. Susan Orlean, the author of The Orchid Thief, on which the film Adaptation was based, is writing The Library Book to bring attention to the plight of libraries. The work in progress delves into the arsonist who set fire to the Los Angeles Central Library in 1986, destroying 400,000 volumes, or 20 percent of its holdings. On Thursday for “An Evening with Susan Orlean,” she will discuss the book as part of a fundraiser for the Dallas Public Library system. Orlean is no stranger to Texas. In The New Yorker in 2000, she wrote “A Place Called Midland,” revealing the West Texas oil outpost to the rest of the world in the run-up to the presidential victory by George W. Bush, whose wife, Laura, happens to be a former librarian and helped to establish the Texas Book Festival.
Temple Emanu-El, Nov. 20, 6:45 p.m., fodpl.org
In 2001, when the East Austin Studio Tour was founded, East Austin was ideal for artists because rents were cheap. A lot has changed in Austin since, especially the cost of real estate. Before the gentrification that caused artists to move east triggers a move in another direction, art lovers should embark on this free self-guided tour of 150 destinations showcasing the work of more than 400 artists over two weekends. A good starting point is the old Nuevo Leon restaurant for an exhibition of 260 works, hosted by Big Medium, the tour producer. Shea Little, of Big Medium, said that the Danger Derby, organized by Blue Genie Art, should also be a priority. “It’s a mostly rule-free, pinewood-derby-style art-car competition with fire and destruction,” he said. “It’s a whimsical way to relax and laugh after another exhausting day of art.”
Various locations, Nov. 15-16 and 22-23, 11 a.m., bigmedium.org
The Houston Cinema Arts Festival, celebrating the visual, performing, and literary arts in film, has already started. Though Julie Taymor’s opening-night screening of the movie version of her theatrical production of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream has come and gone, there is still much to look forward to, including screenings of two Oscar hopefuls, Wild and The Imitation Game. And then there is Spotlight on Texas, a four-day post-festival festival featuring homegrown movies, one of which, Tomato Republic, documents a curious mayoral race in Jacksonville, the Tomato Capital of Texas.
Various locations, Nov. 14-20, houstoncinemaartsfestival.org
Beer and Brats
At Wurstfest, the bonanza of sausage and Bavarian culture, one can participate in the Masskrugstemmen, or “beer-stein-holding” contest—it entails holding a one-liter stein of beer in one outstretched arm as long as possible—and perhaps beat the winning time of fourteen minutes and two seconds by Jason Hurta of New Braunfels at this year’s United States National Masskrugstemmen Championship.
Landa Park, Nov. 14-16, wurstfest.com
Grab a flute of champagne and marvel at wares by Michael Wilkinson, the Oscar-nominated costumer designer for the movies American Hustle, Noah, and Man of Steel, and then listen to Wilkinson talk about his creations—and perhaps dish on what Amy Adams and Jennifer Lawrence thought of those revealing outfits.
Harry Ransom Center, Nov. 16, 5:30 p.m., austinfilm.org