March 2, 2024

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Downtown Napa “lights up” for annual Art Festival – The Vacaville Reporter

The Napa riverfront’s parks and walking paths have taken on a new significance.

At nightfall on Jan. 20, the setting boasted the magnificent look of the Lighted Art Festival. Ten larger-than-life art installations spread throughout downtown encouraged evening strollers to follow the trickle of music and emanating light for an up-close look at the impressive fixtures.

Illuminating the buildings and sidewalks of Napa for its sixth consecutive year, the five-week celebration of light, arts and technology offers locals and visitors alike an intimate encounter with works from international artists.

“The Napa Lighted Art Festival has become a cherished tradition in our community, bringing together residents and visitors to experience the magic of art illuminated by light,” said Public Art Coordinator Meredith Knudsen. “This year’s lineup of artists and installations promises to be the most spectacular yet.”

By infusing these global works into the community, both the art and the city are transformed, complementing each other to create something new.

Kids get a close-up look at lion dance performers from Lion Dance Me during the opening night of the Napa Lighted Art Festival on Saturday. (Chris Riley/Times-Herald)
Kids get a close-up look at lion dance performers from Lion Dance Me during the opening night of the Napa Lighted Art Festival on Saturday. (Chris Riley/Times-Herald)

Crowds gathering on sidewalks to sit and watch the First Presbyterian Church of Napa saw something entirely unique as the face of the building was cast in magnificent patterns from a projection mapping artwork titled “Biotechture.” As the historic Napa landmark took on the work of Hotaru Visual Guerrilla originally showcased in Australia, it became a one-of-a-kind art experience for viewers.

“I like that it’s moving, and it’s lit and it’s set to music. It’s kind of a combination of all the senses,” said Mary Reynolds as she sat watching the display.

“I enjoy it every year, and they’ve done something entirely different – it’s different every year. Just because you came once doesn’t mean you saw everything,” Reynolds said.

A Vallejo native, Reynolds said she “planned all week that tonight, as the sun went down, I would do a few more rides and enjoy the art show,” referring to her job as an Uber driver. Pausing to remark on the ongoing display, Reynolds exclaimed, “oh, that’s completely different from the last set,” as the timed projection started over again.

Although there are 10 separate installations and three projection artworks, it’s very common that viewers like Reynolds sit and revel in the experience of just a few installations. The immersive quality of the festival requires more than just an evening to take it all in.

Standing in the light of another towering fixture, Roberta and Greg Wright gazed up at the “House of Cards” installation, mesmerized by the size and flickering light of the construction. The couple mentioned they were checking out the exhibits with the intent to return with friends who were coming in from Tahoe.

“It’s always been one of those magical nights. We love our community and it’s just one of those special events that help people from around the world enjoy it,” said Roberta, gesturing at the couple’s newfound acquaintance, a recent transplant from South Africa.

Of the works they’d seen so far, the Wrights said the winged “Touch the Sky” piece had been their favorite so far.

An art piece titled "Touch the Sky" by Martin Taylor is displayed near the Napa River Inn as part of the Napa Lighted Art Festival on Saturday. (Chris Riley/Times-Herald)
An art piece titled ‘Touch the Sky’ by Martin Taylor is displayed near the Napa River Inn as part of the Napa Lighted Art Festival on Saturday. (Chris Riley/Times-Herald)

While voicing their desire to walk around and see more, the couple admittedly stood transfixed as the card installation continued to shift tone and mood. The previously upbeat song with a strong bass had since shifted into the melodic “Comptine d’un Autre été: L’Après-Midi” by Yann Tiersen.

Watching the individual cards light up in time to the music’s rhythm, Greg grew nostalgic, remarking on how he used to build these card towers as a kid.

As a member of the Napa Valley Art Association and a former educator, he was well-equipped to discuss the nuances of the individual cards’ illustrations and the stories they evoked.

“We’ll come back probably once or twice a week, just to see what’s different” Greg said, explaining how he and his wife are more focused on these events since retiring. “We’re not getting younger, might as well do it now.”

The Lighted Art Festival will run through Feb. 18. The schedule is:

  • Friday-Saturday, 6-10 p.m.
  • Sunday-Thursday 6-9 p.m.

The projection artwork will be displayed on three iconic downtown buildings for the first nine nights of the festival until Jan. 28.

Maps of the free walkable installation are available online at: donapa.com/lighted-art-festival/

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