lighting the park with The Friends of Blackstone and Franklin Square


Hovering orbs and lights in the sky might conjure up ideas of ‘X Files’ proportions, but the lights and orbs over Blackstone and Franklin Square parks won’t lend themselves so much to conspiracy theories this spring as they will safety and security after dark.

The Friends of Blackstone and Franklin Squares and the Washington Gateway Main Street announced this week that creative lighting displays will be unveiled for parks this year.

Jennifer Effron of Washington Gateway Main Street said the lighting is a cooperative effort with all of the groups and the Neighborhood Association to create a better environment after dark. She said it piggy-backs on an effort started last year in Franklin Square where dramatic, colored lighting was used temporarily to brighten the mood.

“This was something that came up two years ago after our Neckties event, and we decided to do this,” she said. “Our emphasis has been to create clean, safe and vibrant parks, open spaces and streetscapes. This fits right in with that.”

The idea is as simple as it is exciting, and Effron said they are enthusiastic to have the lights up in the warmer times of the year to produce a cool environment that people can come out and enjoy. Part of the reason to have the lighting and heavier use after dark is to promote a safer situation and curb the criminal activity that sometimes unfurls in the Squares.

That is particularly true in Franklin Square, where the friends and the Neighborhood Association have worked diligently to create programming and unique displays to activate that Square.

Effron said that is one reason that, in the next two weeks, the most spectacular lighting display will be unveiled in Franklin Square – that being the orbs.



"Nimbus" is an artistic light installation created by artists Claudia Ravaschiere and Michael Moss. 26 orbs hover above the fountain and will illuminate the park with various colors each night.

From the artists: "Our goal in making art for the public realm is to evoke a sense of discovery as people encounter the unexpected in a familiar space. We hope to rouse curiosity in passersby, increasing their capacity to observe what the park offers: a contemplative area to experience the green and the beauty of the earth in an urban setting.

We used the iconography of a cloud to create a sculptural light piece above the Blackstone Fountain in Franklin Park. We found our inspiration in one of NASA’s earliest environmental satellite programs, first launched in the mid-1960s, the Nimbus Satellite Missions. The Nimbus program and the data that was collected allowed scientists to measure the Earth’s radiation for the first time and observe solar radiation entering and exiting the Earth’s system. This was one of the most important scientific contributions of the Nimbus program as these observations helped to verify and refine the earliest climate models and observation of the polar ice caps.

Originally intended to gather data on the earth’s clouds in visible and infrared wavelengths, the Nimbus program also captured images of the changing atmospheric pressure and changes in the ozone. The Nimbus Program, initially launched to study the property of clouds and atmospheric changes, became one of the gateways to future studies on the Earth’s changing climate. This inspired us to pay homage to the Nimbus Program, to celebrate possibilities and the unexpected portals of discovery in our everyday lives.

The contribution of the Nimbus satellite program and the study of the data from these missions provide vital information on global warming today. We hope that by making reference to the this early program, those that encounter our “Nimbus” will be inspired to study further the history of this program, global warming and the importance of urban green space."

We would like to thank Claudia and Michael for creating such an innovative and impactful piece of art that will adorn our park. Additionally, we would like to thank the arborists, Eric Whipple, Andrew Joslin and Sean O'Brien, who worked hard scaling the trees and setting the lines that suspend the artistic lighting.