Skip to Content, Navigation, or Footer.

Winter festival Lumina brings shimmer of light to Downtown Providence

Month-long event features family festivities, interactive art installations, panel discussions

At Lumina's core is 'Prismatica,' an art exhibit that features a kaleidoscope of 25 rotating prisms, all reflecting different colors depending on the viewer's perspective.
At Lumina's core is 'Prismatica,' an art exhibit that features a kaleidoscope of 25 rotating prisms, all reflecting different colors depending on the viewer's perspective.

Lumina, a new winter festival sponsored by Downtown Providence Park Network, held its opening ceremony on Jan. 19. Open until Feb. 20, the festival features unique art installations, family-friendly events and panel discussions on recreational development.

“Drawing inspiration from the enchanting winter displays of iconic cities like New York City and Montreal, (Lumina) will connect the Providence Rink BankNewport City Center to the 195 District Park via a light-adorned Dorrance Street,” reads the organization's website. 

At the festival's core is “Prismatica,” an art exhibit that features over 25 rotating prisms, which reflect different colors depending on the viewer's perspective. This kaleidoscope of lights transforming Providence’s Dorrance Street is the creation of RAW Design, a Quartier des Spectacles Partnership product. According to the organization's website, RAW Design has brought this public art installation to cities across North America, including Niagara Falls, New York City and Orlando. 

The 195 District Park area has seen many “dramatic and incredibly rewarding” changes within the past decade, according to Caroline Skuncik, executive director at I-195 Redevelopment District. The location of “Prismatica” used to be a stretch of Interstate 195 — “an elevated highway, with off-ramps and parking,” Skuncik explained — until the state relocated it in 2011. “Now (Lumina) can happen in this park,” she said. 


Beyond the “Prismatica” exhibit, Lumina has offered a multitude of events throughout the past few weeks. The festivities included beer gardens, mobile saunas and local performances by the Rhode Island Black Storytellers and the Providence Drum Troupe.

“Providence is not lively at all, especially in the wintertime,” said Ivana Petrovic ScM ’13 PhD ’18, a data scientist from Serbia who now calls the Ocean State her home. “In European cities, people get together in civic squares and there is lots of life in the downtown area. Here it is empty.”

Petrovic and other Rhode Island residents attended a Feb. 8 panel discussion titled "Downtown Illumination: Strategies for Downtown Economic Prosperity" at Venture Café to hear from leaders and representatives of several Providence development organizations. The panel also offered an opportunity for audience members to share ideas for the community’s future.  

The panel included Suzanne Bornschein, a doctor in the Division of Emergency Preparedness and Infectious Disease at the Rhode Island Department of Health, Nora Barre, executive director of Downtown Providence Park Network and Emily Crowell, the chief of staff for Providence Mayor Brett Smiley. among others. 

Following the COVID-19 pandemic, community initiatives like Lumina serve public health objectives, according to Bornschein.

“We think about what we can do for addiction and obesity, (but) there are things we can also do for social isolation and loneliness,” she said. “This kind of event where you're outside, seeing other people that you don't know, or bringing friends and co-workers, creates the best opportunity that we have to build community.” 

In a 2023 study, United States Surgeon General Vivek Murthy called isolation resulting from COVID-19 “the loneliness epidemic.”

But increased community engagement is just one of the goals that Lumina hopes to achieve. 

“We want people to fall in love with this city. It’s all about the destination and making (Providence) the attraction.” Crowell said. “Having activities like ‘Lumina’ at down times in the tourism calendar is just a wonderful way to showcase the creativity that the city has to offer.” 

In 2022, Rhode Island welcomed 27.7 million visitors — a record-breaking number. This marked a 5.4% increase from the year prior, according to a report by Rhode Island Commerce.  


As tourism attempts to return to pre-pandemic levels, smaller cities across the country are attempting to attract a fresh stream of visitors.  

In 2023, Connecticut embarked on a $1.8 million advertising campaign with the new slogan, “Make It Here,” to rebrand what Gov. Ned Lamont called the “out of date” Connecticut lifestyle. San Franciscio’s “It All Starts Here” and Oklahoma's refurbished slogan, “Imagine That” shared similar purposes.

Barre closed the event with a question to the panelists: “If you could come up with a dream headline for a news story about Providence, what would it be?” 

While some of the panelists mentioned headlines about Providence being seen as “cool” or “innovative,” Bornschein had something different in mind.

Get The Herald delivered to your inbox daily.

“I would love to see Providence called the happiest (city),” she said. “In terms of social connectivity, in terms of kindness, in terms of healthiness. Not just physically in the spaces we have to walk and green parks to be in, but in the ways we are kind to each other.”

“Whether somebody lets you in during traffic or the person in front of you buys you coffee, that's how we build community,” she added. “I'd love to see us be that kind.” 

Sanai Rashid

Sanai Rashid was raised in Brooklyn and now lives in Long Island, New York. As an English and History concentrator, she is always looking for a way to amplify stories and histories previously unheard. When she is not writing, you can find her trying new pizza places in Providence or buying another whale stuffed animal.

Powered by SNworks Solutions by The State News
All Content © 2024 The Brown Daily Herald, Inc.