Cave will headline the festival, which will feature a variety of art installations using light as their medium as they take over downtown’s Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park and Kiley Gardens on Friday and Saturday evenings. The festival is free and family-friendly.
Lights on Tampa’s organizers commissioned Nick Cave to present “Heard” at this year’s festival. Cave is famous for making “sound suits” – almost Seussian inventions that stimulate the senses as well as the imagination. In the case of “Heard,” the sound mimics wind through the grass-covered plains. It’s embodied by dancers paired off as 30 horses with flowing, multicolored grass coats that gallop and trot around the stage. Cave has presented the performance piece around the world, including at Grand Central Station in New York and at the University of North Texas. Tampa Bay’s Straz Center for the Performing Arts, the largest performing arts center in the Southeast, and the Tampa Museum of Art are partners in the performance. The performance will be on the Great Lawn in the center of Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park.
Lights on Tampa started in 2006 and returns to downtown every few years with new installations that change the way residents and visitors interact with some of the city’s most prominent landmarks. This year is the first that the festival includes dance, music and poetry along with the visual arts.
“Lights on Tampa creates a unique opportunity for visitors to get to know Tampa in an entirely new way,” said Santiago Corrada, president and CEO of Visit Tampa Bay, the lead tourism company for Hillsborough County. “Each time Lights on Tampa takes place, it leaves a legacy for future residents and visitors to enjoy.”
This year’s legacy project will be “River Lights,” an underwater installation along the Tampa Riverwalk that will light from within the river that flows through the heart of the city. Motion detectors installed along the Riverwalk will trigger the lights to shift colors as walkers and cyclists pass by, making the artwork truly interactive. The underwater lights will also attract fish and other wildlife, which will cast shadows on the surface other water, revealing the life that thrives just below the water’s surface. The installation will remain after Lights on Tampa closes.
Lights on Tampa’s interactive components also include “Sky Striker,” an installation inspired by the classic carnival Test-of-Strength game. As with those games, visitors will swing a hammer and propel a weight toward the bell at the top of the scale. “Sky Striker” expands on that idea by registering the results of the game in lights ringing Rivergate Tower, downtown’s iconic cylindrical skyscraper. Ring the bell, and each of the tower’s 31 floors lights up one after another.
“Urban Pixels” and “Recurrence” will fill Kiley Gardens at the base of Rivergate Tower with two very difference light projects.
“Urban Pixels” scatters lighted four-sided pyramids that can be assembled in a range of shaped to create new designs. The project was designed by Tampa-based Urban Conga, which installed a public ping-pong table in a downtown Tampa park and has invented a xylophone-like musical bench now in use in Guam.
“Recurrence” will create a field of lighted rods standing vertically amid the plaza’s grid of grass squares and concrete paths. The lights will change and shift in height and intensity to mimic the tidal flow of the Hilllsborough River just a few yards away.
Tampa Bay poet Silvia Curbelo provided the wording for “Uplit,” a lighted billboard-style sign that will tower over the events of Lights on Tampa for the weekend. Curbelo’s simple poem was chosen from a number of submissions by writers and poets from around the area.
The final installation, “Shadow Plays,” is a returning project that combines light, music and dance that projects back-light images on enormous screens mounted in the park.
Lights on Tampa is the latest iteration of Tampa Bay’s growing number of light-based art installations. Current installations include: “Sky (Tampa),” which turns the Tampa Museum of Art’s 14,000-square-foot perforated metal façade into a shifting palette of colors; and “Agua Luces,” which lights the city’s five downtown bridges in colors that reflect off the surface of the river below them. Lights also turn the façade of the Aloft Tampa Downtown into a glowing art installation in its own right.