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“Southern Lights” to shine over the Congaree

Hospitality and Tourism
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The “Southern Lights” are ready to shine over the Congaree River with the opening of a signature, long-term art installation by Chris Robinson.

The exhibit will feature lasers and mirrors spanning the river between the Blossom and Gervais street bridges. It is scheduled to light up every evening in Cayce, West Columbia and Columbia for the next decade.

A rendering of the art installation "Southern Lights" that will shine over the Congaree River. (Photo/Provided)“Southern Lights is a product of What’s Next Midlands and an example of our community coming together to move our region forward,” Meghan Hickman, executive director of EngenuitySC said in a press release. “This will be a signature piece for our community and a must-see for tourists.”

The installation is billed as the only like it in the country, and celebrates the work of Charles Townes, a native South Carolinian whose theories led to the development of laser technology.

“My installations create a sculptural structure, draw attention to interesting aspects of the surrounding environment and illuminate the distinctive quality of laser light,” Robinson said in a release. “The Congaree River is special and unusual in that it is relatively dark in the middle of an urban environment and the beams can go both under and over the bridges and the viewers.”

Blue Cross Blue Shield is sponsoring the project that will cost an estimated $120,000. What’s Next Midlands, the Congaree Vista Guild, the South Carolina State Museum, EdVenture, the City of Columbia and One Columbia for Arts and History also supported the project.

Two lasers are installed at points on the banks of the Congaree River. One laser is at the City pump station below Founders Park, the USC baseball stadium, and the other is at EdVenture. Additionally, a series of mirrors that will reflect the lasers will be placed on existing structures, including on the rooftop of Bridgepointe Condominiums in West Columbia. The lasers are blue and green in color and mirrors along the river and on the bridges will reflect the lasers. Viewers who take in the installation can expect Southern Lights to look different from different vantage points.

The laser installation will launch on Saturday, Aug. 19, as part of the Total Solar Eclipse Weekend celebrations.

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