Canberra lights up and gets animated for Enlighten 2021

Dominic Giannini 1 March 2021
Enlighten 2021

Enlighten is the first major festival to take place in Canberra since the pandemic started. Photo: Photox – Canberra Photography Services.

An eclectic mix of animated light projects, walkthrough installations, pop-up food stalls and bars have been switched on across the city as part of the Enlighten Illuminations celebration.

Illuminations is part of the larger Enlighten Festival, which runs a series of events, including the Balloon Spectacular, Symphony in the Park and Canberra Day (8 March).

Enlighten is the first major festival to take place in Canberra since the pandemic started.

Canberra’s most iconic buildings, including Parliament House, the National Portrait Gallery, the National Library of Australia, the Museum of Australian Democracy, the National Gallery of Australia and Questacon will brighten the city as never before from 8:00 pm to 11:00 pm each night between 26 February and 8 March.

A lit-up shuttle bus will also provide free transport for visitors to see the illuminations and performances across Civic and the Parliamentary Triangle. Many of the major institutions are also running after dark tours and events throughout the festival.

For artists like Joan Ross, whose artwork amalgamating cut-outs of artwork from the national collection is being projected onto the National Gallery itself, it is an exciting time after a tumultuous 2020.

“It has been a lot of work, and it is amazing to see it up,” she said.

“I have used a lot of colonial imagery and images from old paintings and work from the gallery to reconstruct how we collect and build our museums – I am really interested in the legacy of colonisation.”

Joan Ross

Joan Ross’s artwork is being projected onto the National Gallery of Australia. Photo: Photox – Canberra Photography Services.

Executive producer of the festival Vickii Cotter said this year’s theme of hope reflects the hardship faced by local artists and the wider Canberra community last year who are now about to experience a small sense of normality through the festival.

“Being able to start to have a major event is really exciting because it is helping people who have not been able to work for a long period of time,” she said.

“It is really exciting that we are able to pull together local food stores, suppliers and artists to actually put on this show.

“It is good for Canberra, not just for the economy, but also for the community to be able to come out and see the beautiful art across the city.”


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For the first time, all of the city projections will be animated while pop-up installations, artwork and lit up pathways have been switched on around the Parliamentary Triangle.

A Bentspoke beer garden behind Questacon, complete with 8-foot light-up beer cans, is featuring live music and food trucks.

The Sydney and Melbourne buildings in Civic have also been lit up with works from artists Mikaela Stafford and Bohie Palacek.

National Library

Iconic institutions like the National Library are highlights of Enlighten Illuminations this year. Photo: Photox – Canberra Photography Services.

Mikaela Stafford’s work ‘PROXIMITY’ will focus on the confluence of the urban and natural environment while Bohie’s work ‘Dandelion’ will focus on the strong roots, healing properties and floating seeds of the bright flower to visualise the caring aspect of the Canberra community.

Enlighten 2021 is a COVID-safe festival and requires registrations for many of its events and activities.

Registrations are not required to view the Enlighten projections but visitors are asked to use the CBR Check-in app and maintain physical distancing.

Registrations are required for Enlighten Alley and the BentSpoke Beer Garden.

For more information, visit enlightencanberra.com.


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