On the evening of September 30th, a procession of more than 50 community-built, handmade lanterns will light the sky. The glowing procession of Morningside Lights will wind its way from Morningside Park to Columbia University just after dusk. This year the theme of the parade is The Open Book. Presented in partnership with the Columbia University Libraries and The New York Public Library, the procession serves as “a celebration of the free exchange of ideas and an homage to the libraries that preserve access to knowledge and affirm our freedom to read.”

Morningside Lights
Photo by Michael Seto, Courtesy of Morningside Lights

Each of the lanterns featured in the parade this year “will pay tribute to a book that inspires, enlightens, and shapes how we see the world.” In the daily workshops where the lanterns come to life, participants will create an illuminated catalog of “Great Books.” Makers are encouraged to design original covers and pop-up illustrations of their chosen texts which will be transformed into lanterns that will light up the night.

Morningside Lights

The concept and direction are by Processional Arts Workshop, with artistic directors Alex Kahn and Sophia Michahelles, two of the co-founders of the event. Electronic sound artist Levy Lorenzo will produce the soundtrack.

The very first procession of Morningside Lights took to the streets in 2012. Collaborators Brenna St. George Jones, Alex Kahn, Sophia Michahelles, and Melissa Smey started the event as a way to connect Columbia’s campus to the wider community and call attention to Morningside Park while inspiring creativity. The very first theme was “The Imagined City,” which featured skyscrapers glowing from within. Other past themes have included “The Luminous Deep,” “Flight,” “The Secret Garden, and “The Reimagined Monument.”

Morningside Lights workshop
Photo by Karli Cadel, Courtesy of Morningside Lights

Everyone in the neighborhood is welcome to take part in the daily lantern-making workshops hosted at Columbia University’s Miller Theatre where this year’s lanterns will be constructed. There are afternoon and evening sessions running through September 29th. No previous experience is needed. You can register for the free workshops here.

Morningside Lights
Photo by Jen Phanomrat and Leonardo Samanamud, Courtesy of Morningside Lights

Those who wish to be dazzled by the lights can watch the procession on the evening of September 30th at 8pm. The route starts at 116th Street and Morningside Ave. Learn more here!

Next, check out more art installations to see in September!