Let there be more light on the Arts Corridor in Edmonds

Iole Alessandrini makes it so
By Brian Soergel | Nov 22, 2017
Courtesy of: Frances Chapin Iole Alessandrini visited Edmonds to replace 13 lights on her “Luminous Forest” temporary installation on Fourth Avenue North.

For more than a year and a half, an ingenious art installation has turned Fourth Avenue North into an illuminated airport runway of sorts.

That project, Iole Alessandrini’s “Luminous Forest,” is a glowing gathering of 177 solar lights imbedded into the street that spring to life as darkness descends.

Of course, over time, the lights are bound to show signs of wear after weathering the daily crush of tires, as well as fighting off punishing wind and rain.

So on Nov. 9, the Seattle-based Alessandrini paid a visit to Edmonds to replace 13 of her creations, under the supervision of Cultural Services Manager Frances Chapin.

“The life of the project is approximately three years, but individual light batteries may cease to function sooner, so eventually, just like the forest of the past being cut down, the lights will go out,” Chapin said.

The lights are a project of the city of Edmonds Arts Commission, with matching funds provided by the Edmonds Arts Festival Foundation. They meander from Main Street to the Edmonds Center for the Arts along the city’s so-called Fourth Avenue Arts Corridor, an idea that’s been in various planning stages for more than a decade.

The city and Alessandrini planned to replace the solar element periodically.

Today, it turns out a couple of the lights don’t want to play along.

“Two lights in the block near Main Street sometimes appear to be out,” Chapin said, “but that’s because the bright overhead lights trick the sensor into thinking it’s daylight.”

So they’re good. But Chapin said that 22 have now been replaced since the project was installed in May 2016 and dedicated as part of the celebrations for ECA’s 10th anniversary.

Alessandrini said that the points of light honor the old growth forest prior to the heyday of logging, which led to the founding of Edmonds. They also refer to the changing orientation of streets over time.

Placed along the corridor at an angle, the placement of these lights was intended to provide reference points to a grid. Virtually everything in America built post-20th century runs on this familiar north-south-east-west imperial grid. But the old roads in port towns like Edmonds were shaped by water.

Early streets in Edmonds paralleled the waterfront, facilitating the harvest of trees. The forest reference pays tribute to the enormous cedars that once dominated the landscape.

So how do the lights work?

It's not magic: Radiation on the solar cells charges the batteries during the day. When the sun sets, a photocell senses the onset of darkness and switches on LEDs powered by the charged batteries. At sunrise, the photocell senses the light and switches the LEDs off.

The result of this intersection of science and art is something that won't be viewable much longer.

Check it out before it goes dark.


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