Top Temporary and Permanent Light Displays
Displays and shows shining a light on the region
Some spectacular art installations and displays are lighting up the night skies of Philadelphia this fall.
The Association for Public Art will illuminate the Benjamin Franklin Parkway with the first-of-its-kind Open Air, a towering visual extravaganza that combines public art with interactive mobile technology. PECO will embark on the third year of its high-in-the-sky Art in the Air digital art initiative; and Longwood Gardens will wind down the run of its wow-the-crowds light installation by Bruce Munro.
Elsewhere in the region, the ground and sky are aglow all year round thanks to luminary displays of dazzling varieties.
Here’s how to see Philadelphia all lit up this fall and beyond:
Special Nighttime Exhibitions
Gorgeous Longwood Gardens adopts a surreally beautiful atmosphere as Light: Installations by Bruce Munro features tens of thousands of glowing “flower blooms,” “waterfalls” and floating “waterlilies” that transform the natural landscape into eco-systems unlike any that have been created before. Running through September 29, 2012, the exhibition brings nine unique installations to the gardens, lake, music room and conservatory. One display changes hues to music, and another hangs like chandeliers from the ceiling.
Details: 1001 Longwood Road, Kennett Square | (610) 388-1000
September 7, 2012 marks the start of year three for Art in the Air, a digital initiative that showcases the work of mostly local artists high above the sky on the famed PECO Crown Lights. The art and animation, which changes every two months, will be viewable on Friday nights from 7:00 p.m. through 12:00 midnight, and the first exhibition will feature pieces created by international artists. During the daytime hours, walkers and commuters rely on the electronic display to see the time, temperature, news and notices of community-wide happenings
Details: 2301 Market Street | (800) 494-4000
From September 20 to October 14, 2012, artist Rafael Lozano-Hemmer’s just-for-Philadelphia Open Air concept positions 24 robotic searchlights along the Benjamin Franklin Parkway to be controlled by passersby using a free mobile application that analyzes voice and location to move and the lights in a way that creates sculptures viewable from up to 10 miles away. Presented in conjunction with the Philadelphia Live Arts and DesignPhiladelphia festivals, Open Air operates from 8:00-11:00 p.m. nightly and allows interested participants to borrow cell phones from the project headquarters at Eakins Oval.
Details: 24th Street & Benjamin Franklin Parkway
The Neon Museum of Philadelphia brightens up the Center for Architecture, as well as bars, restaurants and public spaces throughout the city, with its little-known and privately owned tribute to the history of neon signs. The organization owns more than 100 signs that date back to before the 1950s.
Details: 1218 Arch Street | (215) 569-3186
The Benjamin Franklin Bridge’s visibility from 10 miles away and its proximity to myriad public gathering spaces in Philadelphia and major urban centers in New Jersey makes it a prime canvas for an LED row of lights that dots the bridge span on both sides and changes and moves depending on the season or the holiday. Sometimes the lights appear to “chase” the passing commuter trains that traverse the bridge, and other times they glow in varying colors—red, white and blue for Independence Day and green for a major Philadelphia Eagles playoff game, for example. Seven Schuylkill River bridges are also permanently illuminated—part of the legacy of the city’s Millennium Philadelphia celebration in 1999.
One of Philadelphia’s most memorable nighttime vistas is that of Boathouse Row, made up of a dozen sculling clubs that line the Schuylkill River behind the Philadelphia Museum of Art. In 2009, new full-color, energy-efficient LED light nodes were hung to showcase the intricate architectural details of the clubs. Now a drive or stroll along the river results in an eye-popping lighting marvel that normally glows white but can change to celebrate a holiday or civic celebration, a charity appeal or a significant professional sporting win.
Details: 1 Boathouse Row
West Philadelphia’s first office tower digitally programs its 1,500 LED lights to reflect city pride in major holidays, local events and sports teams. The Cira Centre’s 29 floors shine with light shows that may appear red for a Philadelphia Phillies’ championship win or pink to honor Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
Details: 2929 Market Street | (215) 397-1562
As the scientist who discovered electricity, Ben Franklin would surely be proud of the three-minute multi-media presentation that envelops the Benjamin Franklin National Memorial statue at The Franklin Institute. At the top of each hour, the Benjamin Franklin Forever show, comprised of digital projections, theatrical lighting and audio effects, tells a deeper story about the man whose intellect and curiosity spawned so many discoveries and institutions.
Details:222 N. 20th Street, (215) 448-1200, fi.edu
Avenue of the Arts (South Broad Street) is the first street in America to light multiple buildings in a coordinated display of sound and light. Using LED fixtures with an almost infinite selection of patterns and colors, Center City District illuminates the facades of a dozen historic buildings with programs that range from soothing seasonal palettes to exciting visual and audio shows. Also illuminated nightly on Broad Street: the City Hall clock and tower, topped by city founder William Penn.
Details: (215) 731-9668
Chestnut Hill Friends Meeting’s new eco-friendly space, opening in summer 2013, will feature a Skyspace conceived of and donated by internationally acclaimed contemporary artist James Turrell. When the Skyspace is open, visitors—both congregation members and the general public—will be encouraged to admire and reflect on the beauty of the changing sky above.
Details: (215) 247-3553