GLOW at the Santa Monica Pier, which returns on the evening of Sept. 28, has quickly become one of Santa Monica's biggest  cultural events.

GLOW at the Santa Monica Pier, which returns on the evening of Sept. 28, has quickly become one of Santa Monica’s biggest
cultural events.

By Michael Aushenker
Santa Monica will be a-GLOW with art as the third incarnation of the city’s signature nocturnal cultural event will transpire beginning at 7 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 28 and continuing until 3 a.m. The event is free and open to the public, with readily accessible bike valet available.
Organizers liken GLOW to Santa Monica itself, representing “a union of technology, creativity and natural splendor.” Based on previous installments, organizers are expecting approximately 150,000 people, which will, for one night at least, double Santa Monica’s population, making GLOW one of the world’s largest public art events.
Originally inspired by “Nuit Blanche” in Paris, GLOW is a massive pop-up art happening still in its infancy. This year, the city of Santa Monica commissioned several artists, mostly from Los Angeles, to create 15 interactive art projects to activate the iconic Santa Monica Pier and its surrounding beach. For a single night, this section of Santa Monica will be transformed into one massive outdoor museum, where representatives of the city promise art will exist not “just to be seen, but to be experienced.”
“GLOW is a demonstration of Santa Monica’s profound commitment to the arts and its willingness to break the mold,” says Jessica Cusick, manager of the city’s Cultural Affairs Division. “The city, residents, and businesses all come together to make GLOW possible for the benefit of the community and visitors.”
Keynote artists enlisted this year include Mathieu Briand, Janet Echelman, Glenn Kaino, Rebecca Mendez and Victoria Vesna.
“There are fewer artworks this year than in years past – 15 instead of 20 – but we are excited that they are larger in scale,” Cusick said. “Truly appropriate to the natural grandeur of Santa Monica Beach.”
Briand’s 6:43 will precede the event’s official 7 p.m. launch at the exact time at which the sun will descend below the horizon. This large-scale installation will employ shipping containers arranged on the beach in temple-like fashion, surmounted by a ring of fire.
Echelman’s The Space Between Us will take advantage of the sky and the sand, employing one of her signature, custom-made nets.
Kaino’s Well, alluding to the magical properties of a wishing well, has its magic rooted in biology, with rare bioluminescent liquid harvested for this installation by a marine biologist at the Scripps Institute of Technology at UC-San Diego. Attendees will be allowed to approach the well, and tossing coins into it will generate a glow.
Boyer’s Colorfields is described as “a live, interactive video creation that converts the behavior and movement of GLOW participants into fields of color and light.” This particular piece of art is a crowd-sourced work that allows participants to use an app with video-processing technology to synchronize locations and translate the information into specific colors onto hand-held devices and a website, reflecting changes as people move around. A large-scale video projection will display the field of users and colors. A free custom app can be downloaded at
Speaking of “apps,” KCRW has created an audio guide hosted by KCRW DJs. The app also features each artist discussing their work, and music for the GLOW journey. This soundscape is available for download at

"Shaped Noise" by Celeste Boursier-Mougenot.

“Shaped Noise” by Celeste Boursier-Mougenot.

This year’s GLOW will also cater to the physically challenged.
“This will be our most accessible GLOW ever,” Cusick said. “We have put a special effort into making sure everybody can enjoy GLOW to the fullest, working with an accessibility consultant and the city’s Disabilities Commission to ensure all of the works are accessible, by placing them closer to the bicycle path and using a product called Mobi-Mat on the sand.”
Cusick and her team believe that the event and the spirit of Santa Monica have, in a few short years, become synonymous.
“GLOW resonates with Santa Monicans because it is truly a reflection of our community,” Cusick said. “We are a community of artists (43 percent of our residents make their living in the arts) of innovators (the new Silicon Beach), and people who are truly passionate about the natural environment and the beach. GLOW brings all of those elements together in a new way, transforming, for just one night, Santa Monica Beach into a magical wonderland of thoughtful, interactive art.”