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Shining A Light: What To Expect

Thanks to an $8 million grant, Monument Circle is ready to light up. Our scoop on what to know about Downtown Indy’s latest civic project.

This month the Circle of Lights tree-lighting ceremony will officially become Monument Circle’s second-brightest show. For some even more serious wattage, check out the inaugural edition of the new Shining a Light program.

The first production, which will be displayed using six laser projectors and a new Monument Circle audio system, will honor Indiana veterans. Called the Signature Salute, it debuts on Nov. 9 (the Saturday before Veterans Day) and will run 365 days a year, just after dusk (performance times will, of course, change with the seasons). The show casts the Soldiers & Sailors Monument in red, white, and blue, while video and light projections cover the southeast quadrant buildings. As the presentation’s musical score, composed by Emmy Award winner John Colby and performed by the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, crescendos, four beams of light will illuminate the statue of Victory at the top of the Soldiers and Sailors Monument.

The opening night event is free, as are all other subsequent performances. However at the first presentation there will also be musical performances, speeches, food, and a beer-and-spirits garden.

Managed by Downtown Indy, Inc. and the Indiana War Memorials Commission, the project is part of an effort to “activate” the Monument Circle area by making it a place for people to gather, instead of just drive around. Bob Schultz, senior vice president of marketing and events for Downtown Indy Inc., says one of the biggest problems was getting area landlords, government agencies, and historic preservationists to sign off on the effort.

“People wondered if it was going to look like Vegas,” Schultz says. “It’s not. It’s going to be spectacular.”

The extravaganza, made possible by a $7.6 million Lilly Endowment grant, will use a 240,000 lumen, 4K laser video projection system to both illuminate the Soldiers and Sailors Monument and project high-res images onto the Circle Tower and the IPL building on the Circle’s southeast quadrant.

The light and audio systems will also be used to plus-up this year’s Nov. 29 Circle of Lights celebration. The evening after that (and on the following three Saturdays) an event called Holiday on the Circle will run from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m., featuring seasonal video productions, live performances, and music.

For its part, the 10-story IPL building has upgraded its own window display system, which preceded the Shining a Light program by years.

“We replaced 267 window lights with new LED bulbs and the latest technology and software,” says IPL media relations manager Courtney Arango. “We can now program more than 16 million color combinations.”

To keep things hopping after the holidays, eight arts and culture organizations will get the chance to bring light show-supported performances to the Circle. The program, called Shining a Light: Arts & Culture on the Circle, will run from March to November of 2020.

Mercifully, there’s one sort of presentation for which the high-powered sound system and state-of-the-art laser projectors will never be employed—advertising. All video presentations must adhere to the Indiana Historic Preservation Commission’s Certificate of Appropriateness, which states that no more than five percent of the program’s visuals can be used to plug sponsors.

For more information on Shining a Light, check out this video:

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