Let there be light: Dlectricity returns to Detroit's cultural district

Maureen Feighan
The Detroit News

It’s one thing to see Detroit’s beautiful cultural district during the day. It’s completely different to see it swathed in light and art at night. 

That’s what Dlectricity is all about. The unique festival, last held in 2017, flicks the switch and returns Friday to the city’s cultural district, featuring installations from more than 40 artists from all over the world and Detroit. It runs through Saturday and will also include its popular light bike parade. It’s free to the public.

“Dlectricity is a fascinating event because it places really beautiful, spectacle-based art installations within (the cultural district's) footprint to showcase the architecture that can’t be found anywhere else,” said Annmarie Borucki, director of arts and culture for Midtown Detroit, Inc., which produces the festival. “A number of these projects are designed specifically for these sites.”

Images and colors cascade over the facade of the Detroit Institute of Arts as part of the art installation "P.O.V." by Mindfield at Dlectricity, a night festival of art and light, in Detroit in 2014. The festival returns Friday.

Considered one of the cultural district’s signature events, this year’s festival will feature light, art and video installations created by artists from France, Australia, Japan, Germany and Detroit. Locations include the Detroit Institute of Arts, MOCAD, the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, Wayne State University and the Detroit Public Library.

Borucki said Midtown Detroit wanted to bring back Dlectricity last year but shifted gears to reopening the city’s cultural institutions last summer amid COVID-19.

“With the pandemic, it shut everything down so we basically just focused on getting the cultural institutions reopened,” she said. 

But the doors are open and now Dlectricity, started in 2012 and based on Nuit Blanche arts festivals from around the world, is back. 

This year’s festival footprint — spanning from Brush Street on the east, Cass on the west, Warren Avenue on the south — will be a little smaller than in the past, tightened to align to with the geography of the cultural center planning initiative but also to give organizers a bit more control, said Borucki.

“With DTE Energy Foundation as our presenting sponsor, we’ve added Beacon Park and Circle Park as part of the footprint so we have a number of installations that will be happening down there,” said Borucki. “...It really isn’t that much smaller.”

The festival is designed to be explored on foot, so having a smaller footprint makes it even more walkable, said Borucki. 

One totally unique installation this year is a massive illuminated inflatable sculpture created by Australian artist Amanda Parer called “Man.” Standing 40 feet and made of white PVC tarpaulin, it will be outside the Detroit Public Library facing the DIA, an appropriate spot given that it’s inspired by Auguste Rodin’s 1880 famous bronze sculpture, “The Thinker.”

Amanda Parer's "Man," a 40-foot illuminated inflatable sculpture, will be at the Detroit Public Library for Dlectricity.

“What Man is really contemplating is what went wrong,” said Parer, who also had a Dletricity installation in 2017, in an email. “This work is my response to living in a society that is simply overdoing everything.”

And a signature artist this year is Yann Nguema of France. His “Parallels” installation will feature a mapped video projection on the DIA’s exterior with sound and lasers. It will have elaborate animations based on art objects from the museum’s collection.

“It is such a beautiful video that he developed,” said Borucki. 

Dletricity includes installations Midtown Detroit Inc. commissioned along with submissions.Fourteen installations are Detroit-based, made by local artists include Ralph Taylor, Yazmin Dababneh and Tiff Massey. 

And for festival-goers who want to check out a parade unlike any other, Dlectricity’s popular Light Bike Parade — considered a roving art installation — is planned for 8 p.m. Saturday. Bike-riders deck their wheels out in light and roll for a short parade. 

Bikes line up for the Light Bike Parade during the Dlectricity, a nighttime festival of art and light.

And while there won’t be shuttles to see installations at this year’s festival, Borucki said they want festival-goers to do whatever makes them comfortable: walk, bike or take a scooter. Suggested parking lots also are on Dlectricity’s website. Masks are suggested and some sites with interacitve components will require them.

“We wouldn’t be doing this event if we didn’t think we could pull it off safely,” said Borucki.

mfeighan@detroitnews.com

Dlectricity 

7 p.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday in Detroit's cultural district.

Light, art and video installations by artists from all over the world and Detroit.

For a map and schedule of events, go to https://dlectricity.com/.