Bloomberg Philanthropies funds art project to light up Spartanburg

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An art project aimed at illuminating landmarks in the city of Spartanburg got its sea legs on Wednesday.

Seeing Spartanburg in a New Light, funded by a $1 million grant from Bloomberg Philanthropies, will include temporary art instillations at nine sites that will benefit 10 neighborhoods.

Erwin Redl, an Austrian artist recognized internationally for his work with light and digital media, on Wednesday tested one of eight floating “Islands of Light” that will be placed in Duncan Park Lake.

The concept features an aluminum frame kept afloat just below the surface by eight small buoys. The frame, a prototype fabricated by students at Daniel Morgan Technology, will support 16 rods with LED lights on the end.

That means eventually 128 rods will sway with the wind and waves like grass, casting beams of light in all directions around the lake. The effect will be similar to fireflies buzzing just above the water.

“It’s going to be pretty cool when it’s complete,” said Jennifer Evins. “We’re expecting a significant number of people to come down here to view it.”

Evins said the projects are being installed simultaneously. The lights will be switched on Oct. 4, coinciding with National Night Out.

Redl, who has installed illumination pieces in his home country, New York City and Charlotte, N.C., has spent the past few months meeting with neighborhood residents and community officials to plan the projects.

“There is so much beauty and [artistic] talent in Spartanburg,” Redl said. “Everyone has opened their doors and encouraged me to do something more adventurous. I am very grateful for the opportunity to do this.”

Evins said Spartanburg was one of four communities chosen nationwide to participate in Bloomberg Philanthropies Public Art Challenge.

In New York, the cities of Albany, Schenectady and Troy will illuminate up to 300 vacant homes.

The city of Gary, Ind., will transform an underutilized downtown building into a cultural hub that showcases visual and culinary arts.

And the city of Los Angeles plans to commission up to 15 multidisciplinary artworks and public programs that focus on the city’s environmental concerns and engage residents for its inaugural Public Art Biennial this summer.

The program focuses on supporting temporary public art that celebrates creativity, enhances urban identity, encourages public-private partnerships and boosts economic development.

Evins said local project officials will track the economic impact on Spartanburg, such as increased hospitality and sales tax revenues from tourism, home sales and other metrics.

She said the project has already started to cultivate relationships between local residents and law enforcement officers, which is a step toward reducing crime. It will also involve area corporations and organizations.

Evins said the program in Spartanburg will last for six months, but officials hope to keep the designs in place long after it is through.

The other designs include the following:

­– Smokestacks’ Glow: a project that will illuminate the smokestacks of two former textile mills in the Northside neighborhood at Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine and the Beaumont neighborhood.

– Downtown Mobile: four curtains of transparent color swatches that will be assembled into large mobiles and suspended above the lot housing Sparkle City Mini Putt.

– Benchmark C.C. Woodson: a light bench that will be placed near the entrance of the C.C. Woodson Recreation Center.

– National Beta Swing: an installation that will feature kinetic lights mounted behind the façade of the National Beta Club headquarters beside the historic Hampton Heights neighborhood.

– Video Village: a project in the Highland community that will enable residents to film short videos where they will share stories about their neighborhood. The videos will be projected onto the second story windows of vacant homes.

– All Under One Roof: an installation at a picnic shelter at South Converse Street Park that will include programmable, colored LED lights affixed to the trusses of the shelter’s roof.

– River Poetry: programmable, LED signs displaying poetry that will be suspended above Lawson’s Fork Creek on the Cottonwood Trail near the Andrews Farm and Converse Heights neighborhoods.

For more information, visit www.seeingspartanburg.com.

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