Lighten Up!


Visit Spartanburg before next March for an interactive art experience

By Deena C. Bouknight

Since it is often difficult to attract non-artsy types inside museums, the Spartanburg Art Museum (SAM) came up with a unique way to bring art literally street level for anyone to enjoy. Lighten Up Spartanburg! involves 28 giant fiberglass light bulbs that were distributed to 36 artists as a blank canvas, so to speak, so they could spend three months transforming them into distinct works of art. Since the unveiling of the light bulb art in downtown Spartanburg, tens of thousands have had a chance to view the art – if not in person then on the museum’s free, easy-to-use tour app, which offers an interactive GPS location map as well as audio recording of each artists explaining the meaning and inspiration of each giant light bulb art.

Mat Duncan, curator of collections at SAM, explained why it was important to offer this art to the public: “We looked around Spartanburg and felt local artists, artists from the Southeast, were conspicuously absent from public spaces. There was plenty of public art, but it had all been done by people from New York, Europe, and so on. We conceived of Lighten Up Spartanburg! as a way for our local artists’ voices to be heard.  And now that they’re in the interactive tour app, that’s literal as well as figurative.”

The project is sponsored by local businesses, and Mat, as well as others, is hopeful that this project will help put the Southeast on the map regarding quality, creative art forms.

So far, more than 60 percent of users of the art app have been from South Carolina. The other significant interest has come from North Carolina and Georgia, yet there have been users in California, New York, and other states. Since Spartanburg is just off Interstate 26, stopping off to see the light bulbs is doable for many traveling up and down the highway.

The interactive tour app is available at On the app, glimpse everything from the light bulb that looks like a giant cactus, by artist Kathy Wofford, to one called “I Breathe” by artist Denise Torrance, who considers her light bulb art a colorful silk mosaic expression of womanhood. There is a light bulb made to resemble a hot air balloon, while another features a pastoral mountain scene within. Each is unique; on display is a myriad of different mediums.

carey_edited-18Lighten Up Spartanburg! ends March 1, 2018. Until then, take a phone or tablet to Spartanburg and find and learn about artistic expressions in outdoor light bulb art that span from the serious to whimsical. Plus, enjoy getting to know the city as there are installations in City Center, Downtown, and Greater Spartanburg.

For more information, visit



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