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Rice Park in St. Paul Unveils ‘LightWave’ Installation

Lighting artist Jeff Bartlett illuminates Rice Park with LED light installation in the heart of downtown St. Paul

By Todd R. Berger

7.19.23 St. Paul Rice Park LightWave Installation by Jeffrey Bartlett - Rice Park
“LightWave” by Jeff Bartlett in front of Landmark Center in St. Paul’s Rice Park | Photo by Jeff Bartlett

The Saint Paul Parks Conservancy and the City of Saint Paul installed “LightWave,” an animated LED light installation by artist Jeff Bartlett, in Rice Park next to Saint Paul RiverCentre, the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts, and Landmark Center. This unique work adds what the city calls the “final glow” to the redesign of Rice Park, which was otherwise completed in 2019. The installation is a short walk from multiple event venues in downtown St. Paul.

“LightWave” is an animated garland of decorative strands of LED lights mounted in metal panels, encircling the perimeter of the park fountain’s inner and outer concrete bench. The design provides an interplay of light, animated in a color-changing display, with the intent of a dynamic, engaging feature to draw visitors into the park. The installation also provides a safe, outdoor space by further illuminating the park and the fountain.

“The ideas behind ‘LightWave’ originated decades ago,” says Bartlett in a prepared statement. “I first imagined animating the Rice Park fountain with light, especially during months when it has no water. The metalwork design incorporates images from water and plant life, central components of the Rice Park landscape, and draws upon historical influences, notably art nouveau. I offer ‘LightWave’ as a labor of love, to help further beautify this lovely area of downtown St. Paul.”

Lighting artist Bartlett is a visionary leader in arts production and presentation and an award-winning stage lighting designer specializing in dance. He has lit scores of artists and hundreds of productions in multiple venues over a decades-long career. He has developed lighting projects for prominent Minnesota buildings, including Landmark Center. He has a long history in the arts, serving as the founding artistic director of The Southern Theater in Minneapolis and production manager/resident lighting designer for the Weitz Center for Creativity at Carleton College in Northfield. In 2014, through a Knight Foundation grant, Bartlett realized a decades-long dream of creating a temporary lighting display (“Luminous Landmark”) on the south facade of Landmark Center. A 2008 Artist of the Year in City Pages, his design work has also been recognized with a 2021 Minnesota State Arts Board grant, a 2015 St. Paul Cultural Star award, a 2014 Knight Arts Challenge Grant, 2010 and 2005 Sage Awards for Dance, and a 2003 McKnight Theater Artist Fellowship.

The “LightWave” installation is the final project of the Rice Park Revitalization. As a public park in St. Paul, Rice Park is owned by Saint Paul Parks and Recreation. Private funds in the amount of $1.2 million for Rice Park Revitalization were raised by the Saint Paul Garden Club, Saint Paul Parks Conservancy, and the Rice Park Association, augmenting public funding for the revitalization effort. The three nonprofit partners also manage the Rice Park Maintenance Fund and steward the park along with Saint Paul Parks and Recreation.

Funding for “LightWave” was provided by the City of Saint Paul Cultural STAR Program and Percent for Public Art Program, I.A. O’Shaughnessy Foundation, and Margaret H. and James E. Kelley Foundation.

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