This Year’s Theme: Island

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Artists statement

Morningside Lights returns with Island, a luminous archipelago floating on a sea of blue light. Joining with Columbia’s School of the Arts to celebrate the Year of Water, the annual procession will feature 50 community-built lanterns, each one a unique, personal reflection on idyllic solitude or urgent interdependency, rising tides or vanishing landscapes, utopias or dystopias, abundance or scarcity.

From Atlantis to Alcatraz, islands occupy a place of mystery and power in our collective imagination. They shelter peaceful idylls (like More’s original Utopia) or nightmarish outposts (Dr. Moreau). They test our resolve and resourcefulness (Robinson Crusoe and Gilligan), expose our human follies (Lotus-eaters and Lilliputians), and harbor hidden magic (Prospero). Real-world islands, too, have stories to tell, providing living laboratories of evolution (Galapagos), unwilling exiles (Elba) or parables of collective survival (or extinction) amidst vanishing resources (the ill-fated Easter Island). New York’s own overlooked islands (North Brother, Hart, etc.) yield vivid memories of prisons and sanitariums, amusement parks, and potters’ fields. Yet the most urgent story islands have to tell is unfolding right now across a warming planet. As rising tides carve new islands from once-solid shores communities face wholesale abandonment and global resources are thrown into chaos. We realize with growing clarity that we are all stranded on this island together, writing our own story of recklessness or resourcefulness, folly or foresight, extinction or survival.

What will you bring to your island? Participants will collaborate in forming their own islands, real or imaginary, while learning techniques for making illuminated art. The resulting chain of glowing islands will set forth through the darkness of Morningside Park, a shared vision to remind us that, in the end, none of us is an island.