Glow Sticking

December 23, 2011

Between the burning candles on menorahs and the zillions of trees tricked out with strands of blinking lights, Washington’s all aglow this time of year. But when the holidays are over, don’t expect it to get dark downtown: Several new projects that you might have mistaken for seasonal displays along your commute are actually here to stay.

For a month, riders at the Farragut West Metro station have been getting acquainted with “Farragut Spheres,” by Washington artist Michael Enn Sirvet. It’s an installation of 20 aluminum bowls riddled with 139,847 holes that allow the light from orange and yellow LEDs to pour through. (Sirvet is known for hole-y sculpture, not holy scripture.) If you thought eight nights was a miracle, try 10 whole years. That’s how long the LEDs are expected to shine before they need to be replaced.

You might also be confused by the light show that started last week on Connecticut Avenue. The constantly color-changing glow that hits the strip of trees and plants on the median between L and K streets is the first part of a grand year-round, years-long plan. Eventually, the landscaping and lights will extend all the way to Dupont Circle.

More lights will turn on in the new year at the Farragut North Metro stop. Artist Jefre Manuel’s “Pulse,” meant to evoke a river as an homage to Admiral Farragut, is already partially installed. But just wait until lights start shining on the piece, made of a material called Sensitile. It should shimmer and change in appearance as you walk by or ride down the escalator to the Metro.

Leona Agourdis, executive director of the Golden Triangle Business Improvement District, shed some light on why the group’s been pushing these three projects (in collaboration with the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities, WMATA and the D.C. Department of Transportation). “It gives people an unexpected surprise and something pretty to look at during a routine experience,” she says. Plus, those two Metro stations are particularly dim.


"Farragut Spheres"

Turning on the lights has been harder than just flipping a switch. For the Sirvet sculpture, which was funded by the Golden Triangle BID and the arts commission, the design had to be tweaked repeatedly to hew to a laundry list of regulations. The piece had to stop four inches from the wall, be above a certain height and be incredibly durable. “Materials have to have a life cycle of 50 years,” notes Michael McBride, Metro’s Art in Transit program manager.

It was more back-and-forth than Sirvet, who’s done installations in Malta, Dubai and Chicago this year (and designed Michael Jordan’s dining room table), had ever experienced on a project. But he’d gladly sign up again. “I create art for a living, but you want people to see your work. This is a piece that’s seen,” he says.

And it’ll make your holidays — and regular days — merry and bright.

Vicky Hallett is a MisFits columnist and the Fit editor for Express.
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Kristen Page-Kirby | December 22, 2011