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Lumen Lite returns in-person for its fourth year

The interactive art festival will take place on Sept. 25 in Uptown Waterloo from 6 to 11 p.m.
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Lumen 2019

Uptown Waterloo will be lit up next weekend with interactive art installations as the Lumen Lite Festival returns for its fourth year.  

Lumen Lite is the scaled down, COVID-friendly version of the city’s annual Lumen Festival, which will feature around 20 installations that explore the interplay of light, art and technology. 

“While the festival focuses on light, art and technology, what makes us really unique as a temporary public art festival is that each one of the installations are required to be interactive in some way,” said Sonya Poweska, Culture Program Specialist for the City of Waterloo.

“So not only are the artists creating an opportunity for you to engage in a municipal space that you might not normally see art in, but they're asking you to contribute to the ephemeral quality of that space through the artwork. So it's meant to be something that the community gathers around and participates in. And hopefully when they come back to those spaces, they see them in a new light,” she said. 

The type of interaction varies with each installation: some are based on sounds, others on emotions. For some of them, artists will be manually manipulating the installations. 

There will be take-home kits for people to make their own lanterns at home. Prizes can be won by sharing the finished product on social media. 

Poweska said there will also be pop-up dance parties. 

“You scan a QR code, get a song from a local musician, and in your bubble, you and your group can dance in our Waterloo Public Square in various locations throughout the festival,” she said. “So we've tried to think of something for everybody.”

It’s all outdoors and free to attend. Attendees are required to wear masks and continue social distancing. 

“Some installations are like walk-by installations, so you won't engage with them for very long, but others require a certain amount of engagement. So there will be lineups and a certain amount of people can go in at a time. There's one installation that we have to sanitize some mats before so people can lay down. But for the most part, everything is hands-free,” she said. 

Though Poweska said she thinks we’re used to social distancing now, there will be staff, security and volunteers on site to assist if there are any problems. 

Last year, the city had planned for an in-person festival but was forced to move it online last minute. Instead of interactive displays connecting residents with their city, videos of installations were shown online, with live broadcasts and virtual art galleries. 

But Poweska said it was important for them to bring back the in-person event this year. 

“I think what we learned from last year is that there was a collective disappointment: Lumen Lite last year was shut down and people still showed up for it regardless of the fact that it wasn't happening,” she said. 

Participating artists were also devastated by the cancellation last year. 

“There were a lot of tears shed from artists, saying that they really needed that little something to get them through the winter season.”

“Artists are an employment sector that has been really, really hard hit during the pandemic. And as an economic development team, it's really important for us to continue to provide paid exhibition opportunities for artists in our area,” she said, adding that every single artist is paid for their installation.

While the installations are not about the pandemic, she said the are about the artists’ reaction to it. 

“I think artists have been incredibly mindful in their installations, thinking about how they can unite the community, how they can tell stories, how they can really share what they've been going through in the past few months,” she said. 

“Really, we just hope that the community gets a little bit of joy, we all need more joy in our life right now.”

The festival will happen on Sept. 25 from 6 to 11 p.m.

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