Lights on Tampa returns for its third time in six years with video collages, improvisational dance and large-scale film projections all devoted to light. • More than an art show, Lights on Tampa has become a popular art experience, attracting thousands of people downtown to reflect on — and celebrate — public art in outdoor places. • "It was created as a way to get public art out there and make it noticeable,'' said Nancy Kipnis, a spokeswoman for Lights on Tampa. "People have really fallen in love with it. It's less about seeing something and more about being part of a something.'' • Saturday's show centers on Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park, home to the newly opened Tampa Museum of Art and the Glazer Children's Museum. The main component will come from Spanish artist Pablo Valbuena, who is using light projected on the Poe Parking Garage to create what appears to be a huge three-dimensional space. • Along the Riverwalk, new media artists have created animated videos for the city's first portal. The portals are large canopied posts for displaying digital imagery. On the Curtis Hixon lawn, local dancers will become moving silhouettes.
In the beginning
The city of Tampa, with help from government grants and the private sector, founded Lights on Tampa as a biennial event in 2006 to raise awareness of public art. It hosted the second event in 2009 to coincide with the Super Bowl in Tampa. The city commissions local, national and international artists to turn downtown buildings into canvases for illuminated installations. Some are permanent, such as Stephen Knapp's 2006 Luminous Affirmations on the Tampa municipal building. Others light the sky just for one night.
The main displays will be in Curtis Hixon Park, but organizers encourage visitors to walk around the city and view other new light features, including James Woodfill's Siteliner on the new TECO streetcar station at Whiting and Franklin streets. Maps will be provided.
Prime viewing for Pablo Valbuena's work, titled N27⁰57'00" W82⁰27'41", the longitude and latitude coordinates of the Poe Parking Garage, will be along Ashley Drive, particularly Taps Wine & Beer Merchants. Malio's Prime Steakhouse in the circular Rivergate Tower will be a short walk from the portal videos and dance show. (For more nearby restaurants, see Page 34.)
Participating artists will mingle with guests and talk about their works. At dusk, Leo Villareal's 2010 work, Sky, will bathe the art museum in colorful light.
To coincide with the event, downtown museums are staying open late (9 p.m. for the Tampa Museum of Art, 8 p.m. for the Glazer Children's Museum and 6 p.m. for the Florida Museum of Photographic History) and the art museum's Sono Cafe will offer food and drinks, including beer and wine, on the museum plaza.
The David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts is showing Billy Elliot the Musical at 2 and 8 p.m. Tampa Theatre is screening Oscar-nominated animated short films at 7:30 and 10:30 p.m.