Santa Monica Lookout
Santa Monica Gets Ready to Glow
By Jason Islas
September 17, 2013 -- There will be a musical tour through the 20th century for riders of Santa Monica's carousel, a wishing well filled with bioluminescent plankton and a puppet show about conquistadors.
That night, Glow will transform the daytime getaway for beachgoers into an otherworldly stage populated by incandescent and interactive artwork.
And though it will only be Santa Monica's third Glow event, the all-night art festival has already become a phenomenon, attracting thousands to wander through -- and participate in -- the works of art.
“There's a lot of magic involved,” said Santa Monica's Cultural Affairs Manager Jessica Cusick about the City-sponsored event which she said was inspired by the “White Night” festival in Paris, France.
“In honor of this French inspiration, we've actually worked with the French Consul General and The French Cultural Services,” she said. As a result, the work of a French artist has been featured at both the 2008 and 2010 Glow festival.
This year, French artist Mathieu Briand will continue the tradition with his installation described as a “chamber of mystery from a past or future time” topped with a ring of fire which “signals earth’s primal essence.”
Briand is one of 15 artists who will participate in Glow this year.
“Our approach is to have artists participate in Glow through a variety” of selection processes, said Cusick.
About half of the artists were selected through an open-call process, during which anyone can submit a proposal for a project. Eventually, the proposals are vetted by a four-person Cultural Committee.
The members of that committee also nominate a group of artists.
“They, as a group, select amongst those names,” Cusick said. “We're really getting a broad cross section of artist participation.”
Among those chosen is Marni Gittleman whose project is an “immersive art experience where the gestures and sounds of visitors within a geodesic dome are interpreted by artists into cast shadows and silhouettes projected onto the structure’s translucent skin.”
There will also be a swarm of tall jellyfish-like creatures by artist collective Aphidoidea. The creatures “respond with light and sound to visitors,” according to Glow's official 2013 program.
Another project seeks to use visitors smartphones as the primary medium.
“Visitors are encouraged to interact with artist Steve Boyer’s work Colorfields via a free, custom mobile phone app, which prompts color changes on iPhone/Android devices as users move within the Colorfields zone,” the program reads. “Activate your smartphone and learn how to participate by visiting www.colorfields.org.”
Glow, Cusick said, is a perfect fit for Santa Monica, “nearly half of us make our living in a way related to the arts.”
In fact, it is a direct outgrowth of Santa Monica's Cultural Plan, which the Council adopted in 2007. Cusick, who was new to her post at the time, said that in the process of developing the Plan, “I was hearing a lot that the community wanted some signature cultural events.”
But what shape that would take remained unclear.
It wasn't until she began brainstorming with Mark Pally, an art consultant and Glow's artistic director, that the idea of an overnight art festival like Paris' “White Night” solidified.
“It was a little bit of a hard sell back then,” Cusick said, largely because businesses and stakeholders didn't really know what to expect from an all-night art event.
But the first Glow in July 2008 proved a huge success.
“We actually planned it in the summer,” Cusick said. “Little did we know it would bring 200,000 people to the beach.”
Glow is a massive undertaking, she said, and happens partly as a result of the City's partnership with KCRW, the Santa Monica Convention and Visitors' Bureau and the Santa Monica Pier.
In addition to those partners, the City raises about two-thirds of the $600,000 it takes to put on the festival a wide variety of donors, including major institutions like the Bloomberg Philanthropies and Metabolic Studios.
The majority of the money, Cusick said, goes to pay for logistics, infrastructure, transportation management -- like rerouting buses -- and security.
Despite the cost, she said, it's “a tremendous, positive impact on our local economy,” adding that the hotels in Downtown Santa Monica filled all their rooms during Glow in 2010.
With its continued success, it seems as though Glow -- which the City plans to hold every three years -- is here to stay.
“I think with each iteration, Glow becomes more fixed in people's minds as Santa Monica's cultural event,” Cusick said. “Each time, it gets better.”
For more information, including a full program of Glow's events, visit glowsantamonica.org.
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