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Columbia University’s Morningside Lights—A Public Art Escapade

Visions of "Morningside Lights"
Visions of "Morningside Lights"
Aleba Gartner

New York City is one of the busiest places on earth with many different events and programs taking place every single day of the year. Although there is a lot to see and do in New York City, one of the newest, most unusual, and most wonderful events is the “Morningside Lights” puppetry and light parade. Started in 2012, this Columbia University sponsored event involves a procession of people—some playing musical instruments—parading around Morningside Park and the Columbia University campus in upper Manhattan. The project was created by Melissa Smey, the director of the University's Arts Initiative and Miller Theatre, as a unique way to forge and strengthen connections between community members and Columbia students, faculty, and staff through the arts.

A "Morningside Lights" parade in session.
Aleba Gartner

Although Morningside Lights has only been in effect since 2012 it has gained massive popularity and plans are currently underway for the 2014 event which is scheduled be held between September 20th and 27th. The puppet-like lanterns that make up the basis of the occasion are made out of paper mache and the public is invited to help build and make the figures. No entrance fee or time sheets are required to take part in this occasion. Although the event is free, participants are encouraged to sign up in advance to ensure that there is space for them during their preferred workshop. Registration is now open and a sign-up form is available online at

According to the official website:

“On September 20, 2014, Alex Kahn and Sophia Michahelles, artists and creative directors of Processional Arts Workshop (PAW) will return to teach participants building techniques and help members of the Morningside Heights community realize their ideas and visions in beautiful executions of large-scale illuminated objects. This year’s theme “Odysseus on the A Train” shares in a Columbia University-wide celebration of African American artist Romare Bearden and his 1977 collage series "A Black Odyssey", inspired by Homer's timeless epic. "Odysseus on the A Train" offers a celebratory prelude to the November 15 opening of “Romare Bearden: A Black Odyssey” at Columbia’s Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Art Gallery. Composer Nathan Davis will once again create a participatory score integrated into the procession. Those interested in music will have opportunities to both construct and perform handmade instruments. The procession will be the culmination of the Friends of Morningside Park’s annual Common Ground festival, which takes place in the park on September 27, 2014.”

“Morningside Lights” is an excellent way for people of all ages to become involved in the arts and connect with the artistic side of NYC life. Anyone who is interested is encouraged to sign up for the event. It is also recommended that interested parties sign up to receive the Morningside Lights newsletter in order to be among the first to find out what new events are scheduled.

For more information, visit the official website:

And for very detailed information about the 2014 event read the Press Release: