Columbia Lights Up the Heights with Community Arts Project

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By Michaela Hirsch From Sept. 22-29, the Arts Initiative and Miller Theatre at Columbia University are inviting community members of all ages to participate in a series of free lantern-building workshops, culminating in an illuminated procession in Morningside Park. Called Morningside Lights, the procession will begin at 8 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 29, at 117th Street and Morningside Avenue. Participants-including families, Columbia students and whoever else wishes to take part-will parade lanterns on poles, play instruments (their own or new creations built in the workshops), and carry radios playing Nathan Davis' score, which will be broadcast via Columbia's radio station, WKCR. Alex Kahn and Sophia Michahelles-the artistic directors of the Processional Arts Workshop, the organization behind the annual Halloween Parade in the Village-created the concept as well as this year's theme, "The Imagined City." The procession will celebrate the diversity of Morningside Park's surrounding communities of Harlem, the Upper West Side and Morningside Heights, and give participants the opportunity to voice their own ideas and aspirations for urban space, realistic or fantastical. The workshops take place in the foyer of Miller Theatre, located next to the main Columbia gates at 116th Street and Broadway. There, tables are set up with materials for "giant lantern techniques, such as bamboo-forming, decoupage, and paper-casting." Participants are encouraged to get creative with their lanterns. Last Sunday, a group of Columbia undergraduates worked on a 4-foot-tall building, while a mother worked with her daughter to create a jellyfish. To guide the building process, many child artists drew colorful images (many of which were taped to their creations), and others drew up elaborate drafts. The lanterns will be completed over the course of the workshops; originators can come back to finish their creations or hand them over to be completed by the community of volunteers who will stream in to assist throughout the week. "We're just delighted to open our doors wide and invite our neighbors to participate in the creation of this artistic project," says Melissa Smey, the executive director of the Arts Initiative and Miller Theatre at Columbia University. The production of the procession is meant to be a huge collaborative effort, engaging and uniting the greater community of Morningside Heights.

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