Inaugural winter lights art walk gathers thousands to LBC Sculpture Garden

Dear LBC,

I am writing to express my appreciation of the NorthernLights display. It is absolutely fabulous and something that really benefits our community. When we drove up, it was so exciting to see the bright, dazzling lights. Unlike homes with Christmas displays, this was a more peaceful, reflective experience. The creativity and whimsical details must have taken a lot of time and effort, and my family thanks you! Hopefully this can become an annual event.

Happy Holidays to you and yours,
Debbie DeSoto


Dear Debbie,

We hope so too! In fact, a second annual NorthernLights winter lights art walk is in the plans, including some exciting new sculpture ideas already submitted by Santa Rosa Junior College! We’re delighted you enjoyed the inaugural NorthernLights event, as did so many others who expressed their enthusiasm for our new holiday visual art experience in the Sculpture Garden. Nearly 700 people spread the word by sharing our Facebook post, and more than 850 commented to invite friends to bring the kids and join their families. All in all, up to 500 people visited NorthernLights each night. On show nights, it was packed with a few hundred more. We call more than 25,000 community members a pretty solid arts gathering over the course of a month! (To see fun and creative photos, including a video of Sebastapol Jelly Smash’s Christmas day visit, search #northernlightslbc on Facebook and Instagram.)

You know, Debbie, it’s especially gratifying to know that you, too, see the benefits of NorthernLights as more than just another holiday lights display. The inspiration for NorthernLights came from our Associate Director of Marketing, Data & Communications Lauren Peters, who realized the widespread popularity of holiday lights tours could raise awareness for the benefit of community art that is accessible to all. As an existing free public art space anchored by the LBC arts center and surrounded by free parking, our Sculpture Garden was the perfect setting to bring neighbors, friends, and families together to celebrate art.

“I was determined to make this a reality because it can bring the community together in such a fun and joyful way, especially during some of the darkest days of the year, said Lauren. “Art is for everyone, and people love the tradition of viewing holiday lights. I wanted to help create another space for them to do that and showcase our artworks and Sculpture Garden.”

Bringing NorthernLights to Light

NorthernLights started taking shape during Thanksgiving week, when staff members climbed trees and ladders to begin the endless wrapping of twinkle lights. The day before the opening, all the artists showed up. David Duskin, one of the creators of the Sculpture Garden’s current exhibit, Thousand Ways, was joined by volunteers from Petaluma River Park to animate sections of the sculpture with a variety of colorful and blinking lighting elements. At the same time, 17 students from the 3D Design and Sculpture classes at Santa Rosa Junior College showed up with long lengths of rebar to turn their copper wire models into large, star-studded sculptures, which counted as their final class projects. Together, we filled the park with 241 different types of lighting elements, made up of 50,197 bulbs, to create magical lighted scenery and turn the two bridges into playful tunnel scenes.

“Shockingly well,” is how Lauren describes NorthernLights’ success. “We’re not professional holiday lights installers, so this could have gone wrong in a number of places. As it was, a few of the GFIs tripped occasionally, but our facilities and maintenance staff made sure we kept everything safe and efficient. Our events staff provided resources for installation and signage, and we watched vigilantly every evening to make sure our visitors had the experience we promised. Despite having to cancel the opening reception due to inclement weather, the welcome and excitement from the community far exceeded our expectations.”

“This is just the beginning,” Lauren added. “The artists were truly impressive and made the exhibit amazing. We hope to make this an annual event and invite fresh ideas and creativity from local artists to enhance the experience each year.”

SRJC student artists included, Iris Berto, Fiona Cole, Lois Goff, Jackie O’Rouke, Lindley Parra, Sasha Popovic, Emily Ramirez, Melissa Williams, Kellen Hess, Jaymi Hood, Mattie McCarthy, Gayle Slade, Gina Swenson, Shanon Vu, and Chapin Williams, who created his own piece entirely. Also, Student Assistant, Tabitha Otsen and Sculpture Shop Tech, Roger Chamieh.

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