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Southern Lights to Premier with Upcoming Event

COLUMBIA, S.C. (August 17, 2017)—Southern Lights, a signature, long-term art installation by artist Chris Robinson, will span the Congaree River between the Blossom Street and Gervais Street bridges. The general public is invited to “First Night Southern Lights,” a free event hosted by the Vista Guild celebrating the premier of the installation, on Saturday, Aug. 19, 2017 as part of the Total Solar Eclipse Weekend Celebrations.


  • WHAT: First Night Southern Lights, the premier of Chris Robinson’s installation over the Congaree River.
  • WHERE: Festivities will begin at Coble Plaza (211 Gervais St.). Attendees will hear from artist Chris Robinson and leaders from Columbia, West Columbia and Cayce and learn more about Southern Lights.
  • WHEN: Saturday, August 19, 7:30 – 10 p.m.
  • MORE: Attendees are invited to also walk from Coble Plaza along the path under the Gervais Street bridge and view Southern Lights from the banks of the Congaree River. Rita’s Italian Ice will offer cool Italian ices for purchase and attendees can also purchase Eclipse Pale Ale, a special collaboration between The Whig and Catawba Brewing. The South Carolina State Museum will also be open until 10 p.m. that evening.
  • PARKING: Some parking is available in the State Museum (301 Gervais St.) parking lot.


“The Vista Guild has historically worked diligently to support artists and provide forums for their work, and we’re especially proud that Southern Lights is in the Vista,” said Meredith Atkinson, executive director of the Vista Guild. “The long-term nature of Southern Lights makes it completely unique, and experiencing this installation will add to the fabric of our neighborhood, Columbia and our region.”


About Southern Lights

Scheduled to light up evenings in Cayce, West Columbia and Columbia for the next decade, this installation is coming to fruition through supporters including What’s Next Midlands, the Congaree Vista Guild, the South Carolina State Museum, EdVenture, the City of Columbia and One Columbia for Arts and History.


With the support of the cities of Columbia, West Columbia and Cayce and Richland County, the installation’s design is meant to connect our cities and the Midlands community. The project offers an innovative approach to public art and celebrates and highlights public infrastructure uniquely. Southern Lights will be the only installation of its kind in the United States, and celebrates the work of Charles Townes, a native South Carolinian whose theories led to the development of laser technology.


Along with leadership and support from the communities who touch the bridges, leaders in the Midlands business community, including Blue Cross Blue Shield of South Carolina, are sponsoring the project, which will cost an estimated total of $120,000, a value for a signature art piece that will be part of the fabric of our region for a decade.


About Chris Robinson:

Robinson, a professor in the School of Visual Art and Design at the University of South Carolina, concentrates on contemporary science and technology and its role in decision-making through installations and digital drawings. He holds a BFA from Florida State and an MFA from the University of Massachusetts and is the recipient of many awards including the Leonardo da Vinci Space Art Award and the Palmetto Pillar Award, along with many competitive art awards. He has lectured, written and exhibited extensively throughout the Americas, Europe and Asia.


Robinson has completed dozens of large-scale installations in his career, most notably installations on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. (in conjunction with Rockne Krebs), and in Columbia his light installation at the celebration of the opening of the South Carolina State Museum in 1989 and for the Governor’s Carol Lighting at the South Carolina State House in 1992.


“My installations create a sculptural structure, draw attention to interesting aspects of the surrounding environment and illuminate the distinctive quality of laser light,” said Robinson. “The Congaree River is special and unusual in that it is relatively dark in the middle of an urban environment and the beams can go both under and over the bridges and the viewers.”


Southern Lights is representative of Robinson’s body of work and marks the end of Robinson’s academic career in the School of Visual Art & Design at the University of South Carolina (May 31, 2017). Robinson will become chair of the Department of Art at USC Beaufort this fall.


Southern Lights: Columbia’s Signature Public Art Piece

This installation is slated to light up the night for three hours in the evening for the next 10 years, (times will change depending on what time the sun sets) or as long as the equipment holds up. The City of Columbia is committed to the ongoing maintenance and management of Southern Lights, as is the South Carolina State Museum. Those who visit the riverfront regularly will be able to take in Southern Lights, and with signage and wayfinding surrounding Southern Lights to come, visitors to the region will discover this major attraction for years to come.


For more information on Southern Lights, visit SouthernLightsSC.com and on social media via #SouthernLightsSC.

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