Luminous Waveforms by Phil Spitler and Victoria Mara Heilweil. (Courtesy of Autumn Lights Festival)

Fantastical Art Installations to Brighten Oakland During Autumn Lights Festival

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Oakland Gardens at Lake Merritt is about to see the light on burner art.

Imagine being immersed in lush gardens glittering with art and lighting installations. Picture fire dancers twirling by as live music flutters through the wind.

On October 19-21, the seven-acre manicured Gardens at Lake Merritt will be transformed into an enchanted oasis when it hosts the sixth annual Autumn Lights Festival, with a collection of glowing sculptures by more 40 Bay Area artists. The festivities begin at dusk and, as with all good parties in Oakland, will include locally crafted beer and food. If you're into it, you can even partake in in-game locations courtesy of Niantic (creators of Pokemon Go) as you stroll through the auroral pathways.

Autumn Lights was originally envisioned as a lantern festival, but has expanded to a visual wonder with large-scale installations employing new tech and innovative materials. The event is hosted by Friends of the Gardens at Lake Merritt (FGLM), whose work you may have seen at the Google Succulent Gardens, Mediterranean and Sensory Gardens, and multiple Pollinator Amid the 40+ artists, this year presents five featured creators including Luminescent Grand who will install the world's first fully interactive LED piano, which debuted at Burning Man in 2013. See Jon Sarriugarte's "Golden Mean" Snail Car, aka Oakland Mayor Libby's Schaaf's chariot, fresh from the Playa this year. Mud Lights of Laney College will place more than 40 ceramic lanterns in the Sensory Garden lit by LED tea lights. Experience an illuminated seating arrangement made up of two parametrically designed, sculpted wooden benches by Phil Spitler and Victoria Mara Heilweil called Luminous Waveforms. And lastly, there is the interactive Glow Sticks installation by Todd Cooper, which riffs on funhouse mirror tricks with two connected parabolic mirrors that induce kaleidoscopic, neon eye candy.

LED piano by Luminescent Grand

Amid the 40+ artists, this year presents five featured creators including Luminescent Grand who will install the world's first fully interactive LED piano, which debuted at Burning Man in 2013. See Jon Sarriugarte's "Golden Mean" Snail Car, aka Oakland Mayor Libby's Schaaf's chariot, fresh from the Playa this year. Mud Lights of Laney College will place more than 40 ceramic lanterns in the Sensory Garden lit by LED tea lights. Experience an illuminated seating arrangement made up of two parametrically designed, sculpted wooden benches by Phil Spitler and Victoria Mara Heilweil called Luminous Waveforms. And lastly, there is the interactive Glow Sticks installation by Todd Cooper, which riffs on funhouse mirror tricks with two connected parabolic mirrors that induce kaleidoscopic, neon eye candy.

The Autumn Lights Festival is an annual fundraiser to ensure that the "gardens remain a vibrant, relevant part of urban life," according to Samee Roberts, producer of the festival, who describes it as "an immersive experience of art, culture, innovation and horticulture." All proceeds benefit the Friends of the Gardens at Lake Merritt for improvements at the gardens including construction of a new entrance on Bellevue Avenue. // 666 Bellevue Ave. (Oakland), $20 adults/ $7 youth (advance), $25/$10 event day, Get tickets at Eventbrite.com.
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