SM PIER — Imagine walking along the shoreline, south of the Santa Monica Pier, and finding yourself surrounded by a swarm of “interactive” jellyfish. Sculptures of the jelly fish will range in size, some more than 12 feet above the sand, and instead of stinging you, they light up as you walk by.
The installation is called “Swarm (The Gelatinous Bloom)” from artist collective Aphidoidea, and is one of many at GLOW, the all night cultural experience taking place this Saturday that will feature original commissions by artists that re-imagine Santa Monica Beach as a playground for thoughtful and participatory temporary artworks.
About 150,000 visitors are expected to attend. More than 100 artists from around the area and worldwide will participate in 15 site-specific, interactive art projects strewn around the iconic pier and beach from 7 p.m. to 3 a.m.
“This event is a reflection of our brand as a community, a community of artists, innovators,” said Jessica Cusick, cultural affairs manager with City Hall. “It’s good for our local businesses who we partner with and they stay open late and they all have specials.”
There are other installations around the beach like a rotating stage from Steven Hull featuring a marionette show based on the short story “A Fragment from the Lives of the Conquistadors” by Tony White. The stage, situated behind the arbor in Crescent Bay Park, will display Hull’s sculptures of conquistadors whose hands detach and become the animated marionettes.
The idea of a signature art festival emerged during the Creative Capital process, a year-long dialogue that resulted in a collective vision for the future of arts and culture in Santa Monica. GLOW, which started in 2008, was inspired from Nuit Blanche, a French creation that put art on display at night. The phrase translates to “white night,” the French equivalent of an “all-nighter.”
Officials thought GLOW would be a biennial event, but because it’s such a large undertaking, it was switched to every three years.
French artist Mathieu Briand was on the beach Tuesday working on his installation, “6:53 p.m.,” or the moment when the sun is setting. The project, which will be submerged in sand, is made up of six containers with a video projection of the face of the moon inside one of them. On the inside, there will also be a turntable that has a model of the landscape of the moon. Briand said the top of the container would have a ring of fire to symbolize the power of the sun long after it has disappeared.
GLOW will also include the first ever treasure hunt, where thousands of coins will be hidden in plain sight throughout the GLOW zone. The coins will be the size of silver dollars and everyone can take part and nab a coin for themselves. There’s also a magic wishing well where the artist, Glenn Kaino, collaborated with a marine biologist to harvest plankton that will light up when people throw coins into the fountain, Cusick said.
GLOW, with a budget of more than $600,000, with two-thirds coming from private donors, focused on accessibility this year, Cusick said. The budget includes production costs, equipment rental, artist fees, security and transportation management.
This year, there are new, electric wheelchairs that people can check out to get to the two farthest projects on the sand and matting on the beach to easily walk on the sand, as well an access guide that can be downloaded online and tells visitors what to bring, how to plan and based on the disability, what to plan for, Cusick said. It’s also the first time GLOW will have Braille programs available at each info booth.
Event coordinators have also beefed up the availability of Wi-Fi and cell signals on the beach so visitors can share their photos and access various apps. Some of the apps people can download include the KCRW GLOW Soundscape, which is an audio tour of GLOW hosted by KCRW disc jockeys, and artist Steve Boyer’s Colorfields, which transforms your phone into an instrument of color and sound, activated by your presence in the Colorfields Zone, a 40,000-square-foot area of Santa Monica Beach.
When going to GLOW, officials said planning ahead is key for visitors. If you’re taking public transit, visit the Big Blue Bus website for details, and for bike riders, there will be three, free bike valets set up throughout Downtown. Folks can also download the ParkMe app on their iPhones, which shows available parking spots in the city.
Extra police officers will be on patrol in key areas in the city where GLOW will be taking place, said Sgt. Jay Moroso, spokesperson for the Santa Monica Police Department.
Additional traffic service officers will be on hand to help control intersections and ease the flow of traffic and the Emergency Operations Center will also be staffed in case additional city or regional resources are needed.
Visitors should be mindful not to leave items in their vehicles, Moroso said.
Cusick recommended visiting the GLOW website for more information. The majority of projects will start installing on Friday morning.
“We are really excited,” Cusick said. “I think it’s going to be the best GLOW ever.”
The opening ceremony will be 7 p.m. Saturday at the intersection of Ocean and Colorado Avenues.
For more information on GLOW visit glowsantamonica.org.