By Sam Laird
The night was alight last Thursday in Santa Cruz as local artists and activists gathered to create a shining statement for peace along West Cliff Drive. The demonstration, called the Night-Light Project, consisted of 500 spotlights, each about the size of a car headlight, which wound along the coast from Natural Bridges Beach to the Boardwalk.
The lights were pointed skyward as an estimated 10,000 spectators congregated to show their support and admire the artistic spectacle. The lights were spaced out in intervals of 30 feet and turned out simultaneously at 9 p.m, creating a striking image as the glowing shafts shot into the night sky.
"Peace is a process and processes start with people," local artist and Santa Cruz Institute of Contemporary Arts (SCICA) Director Kirby Scudder, the mastermind behind the Night-Light Project, said. "Peace can’t be an individual effort, it has to involve whole communities."
Scudder said the project’s roots originated from his childhood in New York City where he was raised in the peace-oriented Quaker faith, while the idea to use huge flashlights came from the traditional imagery of light as representing unity and hope in candle light vigils and other forms.
Afterward, Scudder said he was "thrilled" with the execution and turnout at the event, which he was able to make happen after seven months of planning, fundraising, and coordinating with the Santa Cruz Police, Fire, and Parks and Recreation Departments.
However, Scudder was not the only driving force behind the project. Joe and Debbie Quigg, owners of The Attic arts and entertainment space and members of the SCICA Board of Directors, funded the Night-Light Project, costing them between $16,000 and $17,000.
"We felt we had to bring the community together," Joe Quigg said. "This is simply a statement for peace, something most people can get behind."
The lights stayed on for about an hour, and the project was well received by those who turned out to witness the event.
"It was a really impressive achievement, and so inspiring to see how many people were there in support of the cause," said attendee Julia Guthrie, a fourth-year UC Santa Cruz student from Stevenson College.
Vice Mayor of Santa Cruz and SCICA Board of Directors member Emily Reilly was equally impressed with the results.
"As soon as people heard about it they just got it right away and were so excited to make it work. It’s an example of how people in this community and people all over the world really want to live in a peaceful community and world regardless of what certain world leaders or governments are doing," she said.
Scudder said he plans to make the Night-Light Project along West Cliff an annual event every Sept. 21, which the United Nations recognizes as the International Day of Peace. Scudder has already talked to Bay Area and Los Angeles artists about expanding the project to their areas and hopes to spread the project to other coastal communities as well, with the dream of someday lighting up the entire California coastline in the name of peace.