River Lights

This weekend's Lights on Tampa festival will fill downtown's Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park and Kiley Gardens with drumming, dance and interactive art installations that will turn the city itself into a canvas after night falls.

The festival is free and family-friendly.

After the festival ends on Sunday morning, one art piece will find a permanent home downtown.

"River Lights" will be Lights on Tampa's addition to Tampa Bay's growing collection of public art that uses light as its palette and the city as its canvas.

"River Lights," by Wannamacher Jensen Architects is an underwater installation along the Tampa Riverwalk that will light from within the Hillsborough River as it 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.

Chicago artist Nick Cave and his “Heard” dance performance will headline the festival. This is the first year the festival has added a performance component.

"Heard" will run at 6 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. on a stage built in the center of the park.

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 "Heard" around the world, including at Grand Central Station in New York and at the University of North Texas (shown in the video above). 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.

The rest of this year's Lights on Tampa projects include:

Sky Striker

Ever tried one of those ring-the-bell strongman carnival games? "Sky Striker" takes that up a notch using one of downtown's most iconic buildings -- the 31 story Rivergate Tower. Visitors will swing a hammer and propel a weight toward the bell at the top of the scale and see the results rendered in rings of light wrapped around the cylindrical skyscraper. No pressure.

Urban Pixels, Recurrence

“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.