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`Lights On Tampa' To Give New Glow To Buildings

By AMANDA HENRY [email protected]
Published: Apr 25, 2005


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TAMPA - Light displays of the Santa-and-his-reindeer variety will pale in comparison to what the city has planned for downtown Tampa next winter.

Lights on Tampa, a project of the city's Public Art Program, will transform a series of ``signature'' buildings - from the University of Tampa's Plant Hall to Tampa Theatre - into glowing, pulsating, color-saturated works of art.

``Lights on Tampa puts the spotlight on downtown Tampa, and reinforces the city's commitment to arts and technology,'' said Alan Ciamporcero, regional president of Verizon and chairman of the Lights on Tampa committee, who described the project as an ``outdoor art gallery'' and ``total environment of color and light.''

``What I would like it to do is make downtown a place to come and walk in the evening - an outdoor art gallery that will amaze people.''

The installations will be unveiled on a staggered schedule, with some on display as early as November and others appearing well into 2006. A few are permanent; one - the Plant Hall projection by noted light artist Jorge Orta, in his first North American work - lasts only a night.

The techniques vary from the shifting color of the LED display at 400 N. Ashley (also known as ``the cube'') to regionally themed video projections on the roof of The Tampa Tribune (a sponsor of the project) to the interactive installation at Tampa Theatre, which will capture pictures of passersby in a flash of paparazzi-esque strobe lights, then project the images on the side of the building.

Events, including live music, are planned in conjunction with the light displays.

``It's all about free access to artistic excellence, so all citizens will be able to see the most recent, cutting-edge, cool stuff,'' public art administrator Robin Nigh said of the juried project, which drew proposals from more than 100 artists all over the world. ``We want to bring half a million people to downtown.''

In addition to creating an accessible art experience for all ages, and brightening after- hours downtown, organizers hope that Lights on Tampa - planned as a biennial event - will raise the city's artistic profile.

Mayor Pam Iorio stressed the importance of integrating art into people's daily, personal lives, and thinks the project will do that. The city's buildings, she said, can be used as palettes, and the art could inspire.

``It's not necessarily a thing people need to pay an admission fee for,'' Iorio said.

The project ``might, perhaps, put the city of Tampa on the map, as a city that tries different things,'' Iorio said. ``Maybe that's what we should strive to do.

``Maybe Tampa will take a different approach to becoming a city of the arts,'' Iorio said.

The city of Perth, Australia, has drawn international attention for a similar festival, as did light-based projects at the summer Olympics in Athens and Ground Zero in New York City.

Ciamporcero, who also serves on the board of the Tampa Museum of Art, hopes that Lights on Tampa will lend momentum to that project.

``We've always thought of this as being very supportive of the goals of the museum, and the project to build a new museum,'' he said, ``because it will bring more people downtown and create some excitement - some pop - when the museum project will presumably be in its early stages.''

The total cost of the project is approximately $650,000, including powering the displays; energy costs are the major factor in determining the duration of each installation. Project sponsors presented the mayor with a $300,000 mock check during a news conference Monday. Additional installations may be added as funds are obtained. Of the eight artists selected to date, half have local ties. In addition to the structures mentioned above, light displays are currently planned for City Hall, the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center, Poe Garage and the Cass Street bridge.

``This to me is public art at its best,'' said Nigh. ``It gets right into the environment.''

Reporter Ellen Gedalius contributed to this story. Reporter Amanda Henry can be reached at (813) 259- 7569.

Senior Button Pusher
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Hmm... Hopefully, they will light up at least one highrise, so that this stuff is actually visible from afar. Also, it would be cool if buildings with existing decorative lighting would tweak thier displays to somehow be integrated with this thing... Like the Suntrust building, 100 N Tampa, the Marriott and the Forum.
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