Art Shines Light on City

Spartanburg art project strengthens community ties

By Luke Connell
Photographs by Josh Norris

Two historic smokestacks serve as two synchronized, large-scale canvases for high-powered multicolored lights that bathe the surface of worn bricks.

An art project in the city of Spartanburg, South Carolina, is lighting up neighborhoods and drawing national attention for its innovative approach to building relationships within the community. And, good news, you have until April to visit.

In 2015, the city of Spartanburg was selected as one of four communities in the U.S. to participate in the Bloomberg Philanthropies Public Art Challenge. Funded with a $1 million grant from Bloomberg Philanthropies, Seeing Spartanburg in a New Light is a partnership among international light and digital media artist Erwin Redl, the Chapman Cultural Center, the city of Spartanburg and residents.

From selecting locations to designing and creating the installations, city residents worked alongside police officers and each other to help realize Redl’s artistic vision for the project — and, in the process, build new relationships across the community. After 18 months of work, Seeing Spartanburg in a New Light reached a milestone on Oct. 4, when all nine temporary public art installations were illuminated during a citywide party in conjunction with National Night Out.

“The lights have come on, but our collective efforts in Spartanburg aren’t about to stop,” Spartanburg Mayor Junie White said. “Over the next six months, Seeing Spartanburg in a New Light is going to attract many people to come to our community for the first time and help previous visitors and longtime residents see it in a new way. They’re going to see a whole lot more.”

Art Installations

1. Five multicolored mobile curtains of translucent acrylic squares float above the center lawn of Denny’s Plaza.

2. Fifty-two windows in an empty apartment complex were transformed into independent screens projecting stories from local residents.

3.  Local poetry scrolls above a hiking trail.

4.  Eight floating islands of light rods are placed into a lake to sway the waves.

5.  LED lighting is affixed to the rafters of a park’s picnic shelter.

6.  Pendulums of lights swing across the glass facade of a building.

To learn more about Seeing Spartanburg in a New Light, including maps and event information, visit 


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