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Columbia’s river is about to get lit – by lasers

A rendering of the “Southern Lights” laser art installation that will span the Congaree River in Columbia.
A rendering of the “Southern Lights” laser art installation that will span the Congaree River in Columbia. Provided photo

Forget the Northern Lights – we’ve got Southern Lights.

A one-of-a-kind art installation will light up the Congaree River near downtown Columbia every night starting in August.

Artist Chris Robinson has designed the “Southern Lights” laser light show that will launch Saturday, Aug. 19, as part of the city’s slate of events celebrating the total solar eclipse Aug. 21.

Spanning the river between the Gervais and Blossom street bridges, Southern Lights will light up every evening at dusk for the next decade.

Blue and green laser lights will be reflected by mirrors along the river and on the bridges.

There’s nothing else like it in the United States, say its organizers, which include What’s Next Midlands, the Congaree Vista Guild, the S.C. State Museum and One Columbia for Arts and History.

The project is meant to represent connectedness among the Midlands community and to honor the work of Charles Townes, a native South Carolinian whose theories led to the development of laser technology.

The $120,000 project is sponsored by Blue Cross Blue Shield and other Midlands businesses.

Robinson, the artist, has completed dozens of large-scale installations in his career, most notably installations on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. and, in Columbia, his light installation at the celebration of the opening of the S.C. State Museum in 1989 and for the Governor’s Carolighting at the South Carolina State House in 1992.

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