Open Air will consist of 24 powerful robotic searchlights placed along the Benjamin Franklin Parkway combining to create enormous 3-D light formations visible from 10 miles away. (Image courtesy the Association for Public Art)
It’s not every day Philadelphians get to experience an outdoor interactive light show manipulated by voice recordings of their fellow city-dwellers.
But that’s exactly what the deal is with Open Air, created by renowned new media artist Rafael Lozano-Hemmer and presented by the Association for Public Art. In just six days, the Benjamin Franklin Parkway will become illuminated by 24 powerful robotic searchlights, creating enormous three-dimensional light formations in the night sky visible up to 10 miles away.
So to make sure you get a good look, here’s a list of some of the best places to view Open Air along the Parkway:
• The Philadelphia Museum of Art Steps: There’s probably no better viewing spot than the steps of the Art Museum. Slightly elevated but still directly beneath the projections, it’s a perfect location — just be sure to claim a spot early on opening night, September 20.
• Eakins Oval: Not only is Eakins Oval, at 24th Street and the Parkway, the project headquarters, it’s also a great outdoor hangout space and the location of one of Philadelphia’s most iconic sculptures. Plus, you’ll be able to loan out free iPhones at the Oval to use in recording your voice for Open Air.
• Logan Square: Be right beneath the action and still in close proximity to Center City. Swann Fountain will amplify the visual splendor of the evening. If you grab a spot early, there should be plenty of space for picnicking as well.
• Barnes Foundation: Make a night of it and check out the museum, catch one of their evening events before heading out to watch the lights, or simply take advantage of the lovely courtyard outside and skip the admission fee.
• Rodin Museum: The museum will be closed by the time the action starts, but you can still enjoy the lights from the gorgeous gardens outside.
• Schuylkill River Park: The gorgeous winding paths beside the river offer some of the best views of the Art Museum the city has to offer, plus grassy patches and benches galore. It’s also a great spot because it’s walking distance from Center City and accessible via the Walnut Street Bridge, Race Street crossing and other connectors.
• Schuylkill River Bridges: The bridges that span the Schuylkill River are going to provide awesome vantage points for viewing the show. And many of them are easily accessible from Center City and the surrounding neighborhoods. Our recommendations include the bridges spanning Girard Avenue, Spring Garden Street, JFK Boulevard, Market Street, Chestnut Street, Walnut Street and the newly rehabbed South Street Bridge, complete with lighting elements of its own.
• Sister Cities Park: Sister Cities is Philly’s newest green space on the Parkway, with ample green space and benches. While the visitor center will no longer be open by nightfall, this spot is great because of its close proximity to Center City where you can get your late-night snacks.
• Franklin Institute: This beloved institution is good for a night out any day of the week, but on the night of September 22, they’ll be celebrating International Observe the Moon Day/Night with several lunar-centric theater shows, family-friendly activities, walks along the Schuylkill and more. Absolutely perfect for seeing Open Air will be the nighttime Lunar Observing activities, with spots at Schuylkill River Trail at Race Street, Art Museum Front Steps, Logan Circle and more. Night Skies in the Observatory on October 11 will be another awesome chance to combine Open Air with fun programming, especially with the rooftop vantage point.
• Love Park: Don’t feel much like venturing out of Center City but still need a ground-level view of the show? Love Park has enough open sky-gazing space above it that you’ll be sure to get good glimpse.
• Cafe Cret: Get a double shot of culture at one of Philly’s oldest European-style outdoor cafes, situated right on the Parkway. Check out our Philly 101 video here.
• Benjamin Franklin Parkway Baseball Fields: Located on 22nd and the Parkway, these fields are going to have the perfect under-the-lights view so you can throw down a blanket and spotlight-gaze in the grass.
Keep reading, below.
Seeing as Open Air’s 24 spotlights, the most powerful on the planet, will be visible for up to ten miles, here are some slightly farther locations to experience the spectacle.
• Drexel Park: Perched just perfectly above the Schuylkill River and directly southwest of the Art Museum steps, Drexel Park is a premiere picnic spot for spectating from afar.
• Lemon Hill: For a nice open viewing spot that’s a bit removed from the project space, head up to the hills of Fairmount Park.
• MLK Drive: For a drive-by look, cruise down one of Philly’s most iconic roadways. Not only does it run parallel across the river from Kelly Drive, but if you follow it close to down-town until you can see the museum, you’ll also find plenty of park space with parking lots so you can pull over and watch.
• Kelly Drive: There are many places along the river with great views of the display, including Boathouse Row (see below) and the open field at the intersection of Kelly Drive and Sedgley Drive.
• Boathouse Row: Sit among the city’s famous boathouse-framing lights while you watch the light show by the river.
For all our Open Air coverage, click here.
Where: Benjamin Franklin Parkway; Project Headquarters – 24th Street and the Parkway
When: September 20-October 14, nightly 8-11 p.m.; Opening Night Celebration – September 20, 7:30-11 p.m.
More info: www.associationforpublicart.org