Artist collective Factory Obscura lights up downtown OKC with mobile attraction Downtown Starlight

In June, the Downtown Oklahoma City Initiatives partnered with Urban Land Institute of Oklahoma to release a call for project applications. More than 40 applications were received totaling in excess of $100,000. The organizations had planned to fund up to $20,000 in micro-grants, but after receiving so many compelling applications, the Downtown OKC Initiatives board approved an additional $20,000.

The micro-grant projects range from the “Hope Flags” at Elemental Coffee, which local artist Jarica Walsh printed using plant materials collected the “corona gardens” Oklahomans started during lockdown to a “Stronger Together” mural planned for the side of Shop Good. A drive-in documentary screening in Deep Deuce, a day of one-on-one artist performances around downtown and a COVID-theme hopscotch game off Sheridan Avenue are some of the projects that have already made their debut, with several more planned.

“Seeing Downtown Starlight bring people to Kerr Park to gather safely was so refreshing,” Vails said. “As a place manager, the anxiety of how to bring people downtown but keep people safe is a daily struggle. The beauty of Downtown Starlight is that people can feel like they are doing something normal, and at the same time be taken away by the vibrance of Starlight.”

Two circus artists perform alongside Factory Obscura’s Downtown Starlight Sept. 5 in Kerr Park. [Photo provided]Factory Obscura’s Downtown Starlight lights up Sept. 5 in Kerr Park. [Photo provided]

Mobile art

The concept of the Downtown Starlight was something Factory Obscura was already developing as a potential addition to its planned expansion and performance space, a project that has been shelved due to the pandemic.

“That was a really great opportunity, and I think, of course, there are so many projects that were funded through those micro-grants. There’s a lot of really cool things that are happening,” Karper said.

“We had developed this concept as a sound-reactive light installation in our performance space, so we had already started building some prototypes and working on this idea of this kind of starburst light piece that would be installed

So, we just took what we had already started working on and adapted it for the scale and purpose of bringing it outdoors. So, we were able to still make the idea happen, but in a very different way than where it started.”

Working on the massive mobile attraction during the pandemic was challenging since the artists had to maintain social distance and protect against COVID-19.


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