Following a year of hardship and darkness during the COVID-19 pandemic, a glowing art exhibition is illuminating the streets of Georgetown.
Georgetown GLOW, a free annual outdoor light-art experience presented by the Georgetown Business Improvement District, kicked off its 2021 edition April 9. The exhibition features eight installations that are visible in the daytime as art pieces and illuminated installations at night.
Most years, GLOW lasts for a single month in winter. However, this year’s exhibition begins later in the year and lasts longer — a change that may perfectly fit the moment, according to Chris Combs, one of two collaborating artists behind the light installation “Madness Method,” a 200-lantern display inspired by technology and the human desire to find patterns.
“To me, it seems perfectly timed with things starting to break free a little bit with the pandemic. It’s a chance to go outside and get some sunlight, and even at night, it brightens the night a little bit,” Combs said in a phone interview with The Hoya. “I hope that it brings a little extra special to people’s lives in this very challenging time.”
A two-part experience, GLOW will last until June 27 and return in July. Following Spring GLOW, Summer GLOW will last from July 2 to Sept. 26 and feature three installations located in public alleys around Georgetown.
Spring GLOW artworks range from shining sky lanterns celebrating hopes and dreams, as in “The Wishes Within” on Wisconsin Ave., to dangling rainbow lights highlighting a cappella LGBTQ+ voices, as in “The Weight of a Rainbow” in the Georgetown Park Plaza. “The Beginning of Everything” in Washington Harbor replicates the largest recovered fragment of an asteroid, considering the connections between the cosmos and human society. “Light Pavilion” in the Georgetown Waterfront Park looks at the relationship between the historic and the contemporary in its hologram-style work.
The Business Improvement District is thrilled to bring this new, safer, more comfortable season of light to Georgetown, according to Nancy Miyahira, vice president and marketing director of the BID.
“The last year has taught us to rediscover and appreciate the people, places and experiences in our own backyard. GLOW celebrates each of those,” Miyahira wrote in an email to The Hoya.
GLOW’s accessibility provides a unique opportunity to present art to those who do not necessarily identify as artgoers, according to Combs.
“I think that it’s really special to be able to just put a piece out in public, have people consider it or not — maybe you just walk by it every day. Even so, that is an opportunity to have a sort of communication with that person, to have a bit of a conversation with them through the piece,” Combs said. “And to me, that’s the best kind of setting for art, to be able to have art that isn’t necessarily obviously art or to have art that is in a place that is not necessarily an art place. To me, that’s the best kind.”
The exhibition offers both in-person and virtual programming opportunities, including walking tours and Q&A sessions with GLOW artists. Different artists will be available to speak from 7 to 9 p.m. most weekends while the installations remain on display.
GLOW will be a success even if it only makes a small difference in the days of passersby, according to Combs.
“It’s always nice as an artist to have these sort of like high-minded goals, but to be honest with you, I’ve just been so thrilled to see people look at it and smile. Just the idea of having something that’s a little bit bright and interesting and unusual in appearance,” Combs said. “It just brings a little bit of extra special magic to someone’s day. That’s enough for me.”