Public art will move in illuminating new directions this weekend throughout downtown Indianapolis.

Giant light boxes are planned to render massive projections of people dancing, waving and moving around. Glowing sea creatures passed out to passers-by can become part of a blacklight coral reef and festive seascape.

Man-made icebergs in eerie shades of blue will casually float in a basin of water.

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“They’re so much fun through the physics of light, with the blue plastic panels and how the plastic filters through,” said Quincy Owens, the Greenwood-area artist who created the icebergs. “It’s a beautiful visual experience at first, but as people get more curious about the work, what they saw as a beautiful piece at first will be a way to remind them about our planet.”

Indianapolis is preparing to host the first-ever IN Light IN Indianapolis Light Festival on Friday and Saturday, making use of the downtown canal and the dark to amplify creativity.

The festival will feature artistic installations using light as well as visitor participation. More than 10 musical groups will perform, nighttime paddle boat rides will be available and area businesses will stay open late to offer food and drink.

“I think people are going to come downtown, and see a space that is somewhat familiar to them in a completely new and different way,” said Joanna Nixon, organizer from the Central Indiana Community Foundation.

In his studio in the basement of Indianapolis’ Harrison Center for the Arts, Quincy Owens carefully assembled his statement on the climate and the state of the planet.

The Greenwood-area artist was working on geometric icebergs, hand-cutting triangles from a sheet of plastic, sanding each down to fit into a white steel frame.

Owens and fellow artist Luke Crawley created “2058: The First September Without Ice” as a commentary on melting glaciers and climate change.

“We tried to think of something that ties into the political landscape. We decided to do something with water, we did some research online and learned more about rising water levels in the ocean,” Owens said. “We had the idea to do a giant iceberg, and make it look like it’s melting, at least conceptually.”

Crawley is equipping each of the 18 glaciers with programmable lights, illuminating the sculptures from within as they float on the surface of the water.

“Luke will be choreographing an intentional light experience to go with these,” Owens said. “They’ll be plotted very specifically on a map we’ve created, and all of the lights will be sequenced to do a lot of things.”

Much of the work Owens and Crawley do employs light into their sculpture. One of the newest works on Greenwood’s Art on the Trailway is “Prime Commonality,” two glowing towers mounted along Smith Valley Road.

This will be one of the most ambitious of their projects to date, though.

“We’ve never made anything like this,” Owens said. “We’re using this as a way to explore new territory. That’s what we do a lot of times: do new things to advance our skill-set. It pays us back later.”

Pushing the boundaries of what art in Indianapolis has been is the idea behind the entire IN Light IN Festival.

Nothing like that had ever been done in Indianapolis, but planners accepted the challenge.

“To pull out an event of this size and scale in six months is pretty incredible,” Nixon said. “We’re doing a lot of things that have no precedence.”

The light event will serve as a celebration for the 100th anniversary of the Indianapolis Foundation, which joined with Hamilton County in 1997 to form the larger Central Indiana Community Foundation.

Focused on Marion County, the foundation awards grants to nonprofit groups wishing to do good in the community.

“The Indianapolis Foundation wanted to do something that was a big, celebratory event and a way to give back to the community in which they have been existing,” Nixon said. “When we were thinking about what a significant community event could be, we started looking at what other cities were doing across the country.”

One of the recurring themes that organizers saw was the idea of light. Cities such as Cincinnati, Detroit and Grand Rapids, Michigan, had all done bombastic large-scale events lighting up their downtown spaces.

Organizers of the IN Light IN Festival had to find a suitable location for such a large event. The downtown canal and Indianapolis Cultural Trail were chosen because they combine grassy greenspaces, bridges and unique architecture with a water element, Nixon said.

“We couldn’t think of any other place in Indianapolis that created this amazing canvas for us to do this type of festival,” she said.

At the same time, those areas didn’t have the electrical capabilities needed to light up 25 different site-specific art installations, Nixon said. Generators and power sources have been secured and added along the space.

Since many of the installations also implement properties and buildings along the canal, organizers had to collaborate with different places to ensure the artwork could be set up properly.

Permission to use the grounds needed to be granted. Seemingly minor details, such as sprinkler schedules, had to be considered.

Artists were recruited from all over the country, though more than half come from central Indiana.

But organizers also have brought in some of the most daring and innovative artists working with light in the country.

Brooklyn, New York, art collective YESYESNO will use interactive participatory 3D projection mapping to create a video work of art, starring people passing by the installation.

People who wish to help Canadian artists Daily tous les jours can volunteer to dance inside a closed space. Their movies will be projected onto the facade of a nearby building for crowds to see.

Across 300 feet of the canal, Los Angeles artists Aphidoidea will set up their 24 spiraling droplets.

“We felt it was important to have a wide diversity of artists, not only in their artist practice but also where they came from,” Nixon said. “We really scanned during the selection process artists who not only were doing public work, but also those who have a track record of doing art with light.”

Owens and Crawley had originally submitted a larger version of their iceberg installation for the annual ArtPrize grant.

Though they did not win that contest, they had the concept and still wanted to employ their idea. As the IN Light IN Festival came together, Nixon approached them about participating.

“As soon as she said ‘light festival,’ I was in,” Owens said. “It’s really easy for any city to get complacent and comfortable. But the competition to be a high-quality place to live never ends. You always have to be bringing more arts and culture to your city. So this is very exciting.”

Mixing with the light art will be other appeals to the senses. Musicians such as Krash Krew, Luke Austin Daugherty, Gordon Bonham and Tony Styxx will provide accompaniment to the festival installments.

A curated series of shorts from the Indy Film Fest will also be shown. Local fashion designers PATTERN will outfit 14 models in light-based couture to wander the canal trailway.

Nearby businesses such as Fresco Italian Cafe, Hoaglin’s and Two Deep Brewing will have extended hours, special offerings and attractions such as a food truck village.

Organizers anticipate the event will bring together some of best that Indianapolis has to offer in one grand festival.

“I hope people can open their imaginations with what is possible, not only with the arts in Indianapolis, but what is possible in spaces you don’t normally think of art being placed,” Nixon said.

If you go

IN Light IN Indianapolis Light Festival

When: 8:52 p.m. to 1:02 a.m. Friday and Saturday

Where: Downtown Indianapolis Canal and adjoining Indianapolis Cultural Trail

Cost: Free and open to the public

Art: More than 20 visual and interactive installations located at varying places along the canal and cultural trail.

Participating artists:

  • Alexis Gideon, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
  • Amanda Brower, Brooklyn, New York
  • YESYESNO, Brooklyn
  • Lauren Zoll, Indianapolis
  • Daily tous les jours, Montreal, Canada
  • Quincy Owens and Luke Crawley, Indianapolis
  • Jamie Pawlus, Indianapolis
  • Big Tent, Indianapolis
  • Anila Quayyum Agha, Indianapolis
  • Aphidoidea, Los Angeles
  • BareBones Production, Minneapolis
  • Big Car, Indianapolis
  • Brian McCutcheon & MANA2, Indianapolis
  • IMA ARTx & Old Soul Entertainment
  • Opera-Matic, Chicago
  • PATTERN, Indianapolis
  • Piotr Szyhalski, Minneapolis
  • Phoenix Theatre, Indianapolis
  • PROJECTiONE, Muncie
  • RADAR Collective, Minneapolis
  • Ryan Patrick Griffin, Los Angeles
  • Tiffany Carbonneau & Susanna Crum, Louisville, Kentucky

Musical performance schedule

American College of Sport Medicine


  • 8:52 p.m.: Demetrius West and the Jesus Promoters and Krash Krew


  • 8:52 p.m.: New Life Community Choir and Krash Krew
  • 10 p.m. to 1 a.m.: Silent Night disco by IMA ARTx and Old Soul Entertainment

Indiana Historical Society


  • 9 p.m.: Luke Austin Daugherty
  • 10 p.m.: Yadin Kol and Allison Victoria
  • 11 p.m.: Renee King
  • Midnight: Rob Dixon Trio


  • 9 p.m.: Yadin Kol and Allison Victoria
  • 10 p.m.: Tony Styxx
  • 11 p.m.: Keller & Cole
  • Midnight: Deckademics

Government Center Basin

Friday and Saturday

  • 8:52 p.m.: Musical performance by MANA2 based off the art installation “Water Mining.”
  • 9:15 p.m.: “The Crumbling,” a 21-minute stop-motion animation video by artist Alexis Gideon
  • 9:45 p.m.: Musical performance by MANA2 based off the art installation “Water Mining.”

The AutoVault, located at intersection of Illinois and Walnut streets

Friday and Saturday

  • 9 to 10:45 p.m. and 11:15 p.m. to 1:02 a.m.: Digital Skin, in which artist Mateo M will use projection mapping to draw live on participants faces and bodies. The projections will be turned into short videos and photos, e-mailed to each participant.


Author photo
Ryan Trares is a reporter for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at or 317-736-2727.