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Where to safely see art? Motor up to New Bedford’s downtown light show

Artist Soo Sunny Park stood with her “Photo Kinetic Grid.”PETER PEREIRA/Peter Pereira

Here’s your opportunity to spy large-scale artworks from the comfort of the sidewalk — or your own car. With a series of illuminating — and illuminated — installations, LIGHT 2020 was designed to honor New Bedford’s history as “the city that lit the world” through whaling and lamp oil production. The project was created by Massachusetts Design Art & Technology Institute (DATMA), a noncollecting contemporary art institute based in New Bedford.

On Saturday and Sunday, works by New Hampshire’s Soo Sunny Park and the Boston collective MASARY Studios will be unveiled downtown. Inhabiting the UMass Dartmouth CVPA Star Store Swain Gallery (715 Purchase St.) will be Park’s “Photo Kinetic Grid,” channeling sculptures and projectors into a dazzling display that’s visible through storefront windows. Park’s installation will be on view until Sept. 14.


Artist Soo Sunny Park and an assistant, Elias Popa, looked through the window at “Photo Kinetic Grid.”PETER PEREIRA

“Her main material she works with is light,” said DATMA executive director Lindsay Miś. “A lot of her work looks like it has a textiles background. Being a former textile mill city, we knew her work would be inspiring for people who focus on textiles in the area.”

The MASARY Studios contribution is called “Vessels,” with a series of video projections (plus original audio compositions) designed to cover three prominent downtown buildings. These digitally animated murals feature fishing boats, sea life, and other facets of New Bedford’s maritime economy. “Vessels” will be on view nightly from June 21 through Aug. 1.

“The idea was to bring the waterfront to downtown and try to connect this important world that many people in New Bedford never see,” Miś said. “I really feel like we’re doing the fishing industry a service and they’ll be really proud to see images of their boats on the sides of downtown buildings.”

Also on the light theme, DATMA has been busy collaborating with students from Greater New Bedford Vocational Technical High School on a renewable energy-powered light sculpture, something they plan to install along busy Purchase Street. The partnership kicked off in January when Providence architect Chris Bardt started working on the design with more than 60 students.


“We really wanted to celebrate the talent coming out of some of the public school systems here,” Miś said. “We wanted to help young New Bedforders develop some citizenry and ownership of their own city and have some community pride.”

The initiative was complicated due to the COVID-19 shutdown of schools. However, Miś said, some students have continued to work remotely on the sculpture’s design. Assuming their concept is approved by New Bedford officials (including Mayor Jon Mitchell), the group plans to start fabricating the piece when school resumes in September.

Similar to LIGHT 2020 was “Summer Winds,” DATMA’s inaugural season of city-wide programming in 2019. Piggybacking on the success of last year’s event — while recognizing the reality that most Massachusetts museums won’t open for at least another few weeks — LIGHT 2020 provides an opportunity to enjoy art at a safe social distance. “We found a way to bring new art to the city and energize it while these other institutions have to lay low,” Miś said. “Instead of curating a gallery, we’re curating a city.”

LIGHT 2020

June 20-Sept. 14, www.datma.org

Grace Griffin can be reached at grace.griffin@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @GraceMGriffin.