Satellite 2009: Surprises in the dark during Lights On Tampa

The mirror balls sparkled, the mood ring changed colors, a parking garage came alive, and an animated depiction of Tampa under water shared wall space with Celine Dion ads as circus crowds milled outside the St. Pete Forum. All in all, the Jan. 10 kickoff for Lights On Tampa was quite a night — not quite as mind-blowing or as crowded as the first LOT in 2006, but pleasantly surreal just the same. CL art critic Megan Voeller led a walking tour of the sites in conjunction with Brand Tampa and Hampton Dohrman of [5]art gallery. The motley crew of curious art lovers following in her wake included David Audet of HCC's Ybor Festival of the Moving Image (which he's opening on April Fool's Day this year in keeping with a focus on satire and humor); Tara Schroeder of Tampa Theatre (whose marquee she deemed the original Lights On Tampa); and a Coast Guard reservist who told me she's going to be helping with security at the Super Bowl. On the way, we ran into Megan's predecessor as CL art critic, City Councilperson Mary Mulhern, with her husband Cam Dilley and son Miles; the director emeritus of the Tampa Museum of Art, Ken Rollins, and his son Noah, now an art consulting team; and artists Chris Doyle (of the mirror balls) and Marina Zurkow (of the animation).

But for me the real fun began when my partner and I drifted away from the main event and went in search of the satellite installations curated by USF's Wendy Babcox in storefront windows and other sites throughout the Channelside district.