LightWorks: Isla Vista Illuminates a Vibrant Community
The parks and streets of Isla Vista will pulse with artistic spirit on May 19-21, when LightWorks: Isla Vista comes to life. This exciting series of temporary installations and performances that transform the parks of Isla Vista into illuminated evening spaces, engaging existing underutilized spaces and animating them through visually compelling experiences that contribute to the safety, economic viability and quality of night life and sense of place.
Spearheaded by UCSB Art Professor, Kim Yasuda, an Isla Vista resident who is passionate about using the arts as a positive force for community engagement, LightWorks is part of a long-term community development partnership effort with Santa Barbara County Arts Commission, and other key partnerships that include UCSB Visual and Public Arts; Offices of the 3rd District Supervisor and County Sheriff; Isla Vista Recreation and Parks District; Isla Vista Community Network; UCSB Materials Research Laboratory; Santa Barbara Center for Art, Science, and Technology and the Santa Barbara Foundation.
“This multi-agency arts initiative is the first of its kind for Isla Vista and offers a way to engage the leadership of artists and designers in helping Isla Vista reimagine its future as a creative community,” says Yasuda, who worked hand-in-hand with Santa Barbara County Arts Commission to secure grant funding for the project.
Building on momentum from last spring’s Blunite Memorial Vigil, which lit the UCSB campus and adjacent Isla Vista area with thousands of blue LED lights, Yasuda says, “All of that was really the momentum of post-tragedy healing, artists kind of moving into those spaces and engaging them. Art is always kind of a way to make a space more beautiful. …So art is our catalyst. Artists and art are, to me, catalytic in beginning something beautiful and positive and that’s kind of how…I hope this will work.”
She continues, “I was thinking about the lighting as being a key feature that artists could tackle. Rather than having enforcement lighting or surveillance lighting or security lighting, we would have engaged lighting in beautiful illuminated spaces.”
“While public lighting and clear sight lines are critical components for safety, we have identified the arts as an integral component to affect the permanent cultural change our community so desperately needs,” writes Alex Rodriguez, board chair of Isla Vista Recreation and Park District.
Initial funding for LightWorks: Isla Vista is based on temporary art installations, but Yasuda envisions this project as the beginning of developing a more permanent exhibit. “What I imagine is that the campus and IV community actually embark on a partnership to host this event annually, so essentially we would have a kind of contemporary art festival. That’s my dream. And also that we would start a collection, an illuminated public works collection of different projects…We would actually be one of the first campus communities that would have a public art collection comprised of light and technology.”
With support from UCSB Materials Research Laboratory—the lab of UCSB Professor Shuji Nakamura, who won a Nobel Prize in physics in 2014 for the invention of efficient blue light-emitting diodes (LED lights)—Isla Vista certainly seems ideally suited to bring the long-term vision of LightWorks to life.
This story originally appeared in the Spring 2016 issue of Santa Barbara Seasons Magazine.