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Bonita & Estero Magazine

CFABS Planning Light Festival for 2018 Holiday Season

Photos from light festivals around the world give examples of what the CFABS event might be like. This is a special lighting of a large tree in Sydney. It is inspiring Bonita festival planners to try something similar with a downtown landmark banyan tree. Photo courtesy of CFABS.

Pressing ahead to the next level is nothing new for one of the largest arts organizations in south Lee County and all of Southwest Florida. The Art League of Bonita Springs has evolved into Centers for the Arts Bonita Springs, or CFABS. It has two separate campuses and programs meriting their own brands—Center for Visual Arts, on Old U.S. 41, and Center for the Performing Arts, on Bonita Beach Road.

The conglomerate sponsors three of the area’s largest arts festivals every year, ongoing exhibits of members’ works and traveling works, concerts of all kinds, film festivals for grown-ups and children, and much more. Now, something different, bold and bright that promises to light up Bonita is in the wings for the 2018 holiday season.

In November and December, CFABS hopes to team up with City Hall to sponsor a night lights art extravaganza, known as a light festival, at venues all over the city. Artists from across the country who paint with color and light will be invited to shine their moving and still images on the facades of big buildings—including both arts campuses. Some works of light art might feature existing trees or even statues. Possibilities go on and on.

Spectators could pick and choose how many or how few exhibits they want to enjoy each evening—at no charge. Maps will be published and there will be plenty of time for residents and guests to admire this one-of-a-kind, multi-venue showcase. Thus, the notion that staff members of the arts centers spend 90 percent of their time planning for 10 percent of the year is taken to a new level.

“The imaginative use of light is a relatively new part of the creation of works of art,’’ explains Herm Kissiah, chairman of CFABS. “Through the festival, we are challenging our community to consider how light can enhance and create works of art.  Our artist community will be required to look at a new medium in their attempt to develop a new sense of meaning in their creations.’’

The president of CFABS, Susan Bridges, says the idea for the light expo did not come about overnight. Inspired in part by light shows at the Atlanta Botanical Garden, she explains, it has been on the drawing board for nearly three years—cut short in fall 2017 by the impact of hurricanes and wildfires on light artists across Florida, Texas and California.

Bridges says Bonita displays might include real-time video images of spectators themselves. Children may be enlisted to craft displays made of plastic bottles filled with strings of holiday tree lights. The sky is the limit, she says, while adding that the expo will not include cliché laser lights shot into night skies. And neither will it feature rogue artists who make stealth projections on random buildings and move on the next night, as in some metropolitan locations.

The Bonita Springs Area Chamber of Commerce is a partner, helping CFABS recruit businesses to serve as projection screens. CFABS is also asking schools to participate, from the elementary level to college. Youngsters might work with recycled plastic bottles, while Florida Gulf Coast University and Florida Southwestern State College might tap faculty and students to design displays—with CFABS going an extra mile by offering to defray expenses.
All told, the light festival, which is hoped to become an annual event, is not designed to make money for CFABS, at least at first. Bridges says the goal is to raise awareness of Bonita, its landmarks and its arts community.

Indeed. Southwest Florida, no stranger to hosting special events as eye-catching as hot-air balloon races, fireworks contests and personal watercraft acrobatics, is in for a special treat.
“The festival of light exhibits around the world have been hugely successful, not only because the public venues give more people the time and opportunity to experience them, but also the nature of the exhibit allows the entire community to participate,’’ says Nigel Fullick, chairman of the city’s Art in Public Places Committee. “Our understanding is that we would accept entries from professional, amateur and, perhaps most importantly, young/student artists. Much like the Big Dog exhibition we did in the fall of 2014, the light festival can run for several weeks so the entire community has an opportunity to experience it — and it’s free!’’

Written by Jeff Lytle, the retired editorial page editor and TV host for Naples Daily News. He now lives in Bonita Springs.