Georgetown (known as Washington, D.C.’s “original neighborhood”) turns on the lights … literally … at Christmas. The newest holiday sensation is GLOW in Georgetown. It onsists of 11 installations from 16 local and international artists scattered around the city in 2018. Now in its fifth year, this artistic exhibition began as a cultural exchange with Lyon, France.
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Several years ago Georgetown “hosted” a curated outdoor festival featuring international artists’ light installations during the holidays. The idea was to transplant Lyon’s Fete de Lumineres to Georgetown where “a variety of different artists light up buildings, streets, squares and parks all over the city” (source: fetedeslumieres.lyon.fr).
Georgetown GLOW DC is the DMV’s only “curated outdoor public light art experience,” according to its host, the Georgetown Business Improvement District. GLOW will light up Georgetown nightly from 5 pm-10 pm. It ran December 1, 2018 – Sunday, January 6, 2019. (This year GLOW DC will run December 6, 2019 through January 5, 2020 from 5 to 10 p.m. nightly.)
GLOW DC is a holiday hunt. It’s a selfie safari. It’s a luminous lark. I loved how even on a freezing Saturday night when temperatures dipped below 32 degrees that the streets of Georgetown were filled with revelers who were swathed in scarfs and bundled in winter coats. They were all making the pilgrimage to see this Fantasia of Lights.
Washington Walks Tour
I had registered for Washington Walks’ weekend tour, which costs $20 and runs from 4-6 pm. Led by Washington Walks’ Founder Carolyn Crouch, the tour included significant information on Georgetown’s history as well as the Waterfront. We learned about historic sites associated with architects Arthur Cotton Moore and David Adjaye.
The Dog Tag Bakery is one of the stops on our tour. It is located on “Grace Street” in Georgetown. The bakery was formed by Father Rick Curry, SJ and Constance Milstein to help disabled veterans). We also learned how the C&O Canal might have been paved over to become a scenic highway if not for the tremendous public relations battle waged by Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas. His role in saving the C&O Canal for future nature-loving Americans is recognized by a statue by the C&O Canal.
The artists worked diligently to feature Georgetown’s prominent architecture as part of their designs. I felt like I walked back into Georgetown’s past as a tobacco port when we wandered down Georgetown’s C&O Canal (nicknamed “Grand Old Ditch.”)
The #5 Atmospheric Lighting Sculpture used dramatic light and expressive lighting to spotlight the canal bed and walls west of the Wisconsin Avenue Bridge. Designer Elizabeth Coco created a moody work that made it easy to imagine boats dragged by horses drifting up the canal in the 1830s. It was fascinating to look down on the pedestrians who were painted in stripes of bold red, blue, purple and pink as they walked past the installation.
Entre les rangs
Georgetown Plaza features #4 Entre les rangs. It was designed by Quartier des Spectacles Partnership (based in Montreal, Quebec). Picture if you will a field of wheat in the Midwest that this is gently blowing in the wind.
But this light sculpture is a “sensory stroll through an urban field.” I am mesmerized by the leggy plants that sport a round face, clustered tightly into a row. The path is angled so the waving crystalline stems create a rainbow that runs from green to blue, then yellow and pink.
The installation is a tribute to fields of wheat that shimmer in the wind as the seasons pass, with thousands of flexible white stems topped with white reflectors that capture the rhythm of the surrounding urban space and reflect its life. The installation’s changing nature—depending on wind, precipitation, light and human interaction—encourages visitors to return. (Quartier des Spectacles Partnership)
My favorite installation sits on the waterfront. It is #7 (Prismatic). It was created by Hou De Sousa, NYC. It is located near the intersection of Wisconsin Ave & K St (by the Waterfront). I wander through big light-filled boxes which feature translucent interior.
Iridescent cords weave between a lightweight steel lattice. Triangles point toward the starry sky. I can see grey shadows of other people inside their own cocoons. The bold yellow, green, blue and yellow lights create alternating geometric designs.
The dynamic visual effect is known as moiré. It feels like the light sculpture is in motion.
Kennedy Center Light Show
Rounding a corner, I see the Kennedy Center in the distance, silhouetted on the Waterfront harbor. On this Saturday night, the Kennedy Center is also lit up like the proverbial “Oz” in a rainbow of colors to recognize the Kennedy Center Honors.
Most significantly, Hamilton co-creators Lin-Manuel Miranda, Thomas Kail, Andy Blankenbuehler, and Alex Lacamoire received a special Honors for groundbreaking work creating this popular musical. The TV show will air on December 26. According to the theatre’s Instagram page, “this new lighting feature is a nod to the rainbow ribbons on the #KCHonors medallions.”
The most touching installation is #8 (Today I Love You). It is located at 3000 K St NW at Washington Harbor. It was designed by Massimo Uberti & Marco Pollice (Italy) in collaboration with Light Art Collection and Amsterdam Light Festival. This light sculpture will be read by thousands of commuters who drive down K Street daily to work.
The words convey the sentiment of one lover for another but also, I think, the love of residents (and visitors) to Georgetown.
But the sentiment is not today I love you but always I love you.
I definitely plan to visit the 2019 edition of Georgetown GLOW DC at least three or four times over the Christmas season.