Illuminate Art Walk – A Downtown Raleigh Holiday Event

It’s been a tough, isolated year, and hopes for a more connected festive celebration with friends and loved ones have been dashed this year.

Gone are the Christmas parties filled with festive cocktails and fire pits. There isn’t even going to be an acorn drop in downtown Raleigh this year. How can Raleigh go without this beloved New Years tradition?

Raleigh Union Station
Raleigh Union Station

Thankfully, Raleigh is filled with creatives and innovators intent on lighting your world in a way that adheres to the 2020 theme of keeping you safe.

The Downtown Raleigh Alliance Commission has launched the Illuminate Art walk initiative to brighten up our spirits by way of 19 art installations around downtown (14 temporary pieces and 5 are existing).

The DRA commissioned over a dozen local arts to jazz up the plazas and storefronts of the downtown area, including vacant stores and restaurants, giving us hope that art and love could perhaps live in there again among the broken remains of 2020.

Illuminate Art Walk
237 S. Wilmington Street

The bright, bold, iridescent celebrations will give you messages of love, hope, and our ability to reinvent, and welcome in something better.

The Illuminate installations can be found along Hargett, Fayetteville and South Wilmington Streets in downtown Raleigh and the Warehouse District. There is also one on Glenwood Ave, the only one we didn’t get time to see.

And you get to see the lovely Christmas tree in front of the colorful Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts.

Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts
Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts

Many of the Raleigh Christmas events this year involve driving in your car to look at the lights, this one gives you the freedom to wander the streets – Watch our video from the walk. And then be sure to follow us on Instagram as we find these amazing events happening in the city and share them immediately.

Grab your coat and mask, keep your distance, and remain inside the current curfew hours.

We started right on nightfall to appreciate the lights in the dark. Allow about an hour and a half to see them all.

Some of the installations we loved

Whatever we Shoulder by Robin Vuchnich

a girl standing in front of an art exhibit

An interactive experience that allows you to stop and enter the projected canvas and play with the balls. Our kids loved this one!

Esse Quam Videri by Glas

a sign in a store

Translated from Latin, Esse Quam Videri means “To be rather than to seem”. This neon sign displays North Carolina’s state motto. Fun fact I only just learned.

DARC.EEE by Derrick Beasley

people standing in front of a mirror

You’ll love this portal to equitable ecological equilibrium. It reminded us of the Chicago Bean.

All the Stars in the Sky for 100 Nights by Lincoln Hancock

a girl standing in front of an art exhibit

This installation is a reminder to us contemplate the enormity of the human toll of COVID. He says, Plato thought every soul had a companion star…even if we counted every one for a 100 nights, can we even really know what we’ve lost?

Rainglow Katie Steward

art exhibit in a window display

This installation invites us to accept life’s challenges with the awareness that something better is waiting on the other side.

SONARC by Brian Brush

girl walking under purple lights

You’ll love standing under this arch of plexiglass tubes and singing into the microphone at the Duke Energy Performing Arts Center. It causes Sonarc to emit patterns and different colors of light based on the pitch.

Three Necessities: Bright Thoughts that Lead Us by Nate Sheaffer

neon signs
Positive, hope and kindness. Words to live by.
close up of a neon sign

Positive, hope and kindness. Words to live by.

LOVERULES by Hank Willis Thomas

A close up of a sign

I loved this blinking neon sign on the side of Father and Sons, intermittently spelling out the message of LOVE, RULES, LOVE, OVER, RULES. It’s very clever.

Download the walking tour map here. There are sidewalk markers at each installation and a poster sharing information about the installation and each contributing artist. 

Support local businesses along the way with perhaps a hot chocolate for the kids, a coffee for yourself, a drink on the pavement, or a meal in between art installations. Check out this list:

Dates for Illuminate Art Walk Raleigh: December 11 to January 8.

Complimentary parking is provided by Secure Parking when you use promo code ILLUMINATE at checkout. Find your parking spot and pre-book before you head down. Code is valid once per day, per user and until Jan. 8, 2021. Download “Secure a Spot” from Apple or Google Play.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Scroll to Top