Downtown Event ‘Illuminate’ Shines a Neon Spotlight on Local Artists

Promotional Image for ILLUMINATE (Courtesy of

By Luke Jackson


After about an hour and a half of trying to find a parking spot, my wife and I, along with a thousand other folks, arrived at the second and final night of Illuminate: Utah’s Light Art and Creative Tech Festival. Festivals of any type have been pretty few and far between over the past couple years and, as we approached the home of the event, the Gateway, it was evident that everyone gathered had been itching for a night out.

The festival spanned about three quarters of the lower level of the Gateway mall. From the Olympic Fountain to HallPass, people were shoulder to shoulder craning their necks trying to catch a glimpse of the bright light action.

Bright but Sparse

While the sheer amount of people made it difficult to look around, what was more difficult was the scarcity of things to interact with. We knocked out every site in the festival in less than an hour.

There were absolutely some highlights, namely a bike-powered neon mushroom walkway. Clear mushroom-looking contraptions lit up with blues and pinks as they slowly rose and fell around us — a magical moment that was all too brief. Only four mushrooms made up the walk and we were quickly ushered through.

Two small stages were placed on either end of the event. We witnessed a grungy local rock band called Sunfish, an awkward group of K-Pop-style dancers and an EDM experience from the one and only toasterpastries. In all, the night was unexpected and interesting.

A Different Perspective

As I cut through my own obvious cynicism, the neon lights of Illuminate shift into a different hue. For myself, the night may have been overcrowded and underwhelming, but the brightest fluorescents I saw were from the smiles of the patrons around me.

Children ran freely from large pink and yellow praying mantis puppets. The puppeteers giggled with wide eyes as they tickled the noses of passersby with the neon appendages. A couple stood on stilts, ten feet tall, towering above the swarm of bright eyes waiting to get their picture taken. Mustached men in steampunk goggles and top hats linked arms with their identically mustached counterparts as they strolled down the pavement of the Gateway.

Illuminating Local Talent

The event was also a brilliant success for local businesses and artists. Dreamscapes, one of my favorite art establishments in Salt Lake City, was deservedly sold out for the night. Food trucks cooked up corndogs and donuts for lines of hungry individuals. Over 20 local artists were able to gain exposure over the two-day event. Those involved should be proud of their hard work and their ability to light up Salt Lake for the weekend.

For me, Illuminate represented the potential Salt Lake and the Gateway have to put on one heck of a show. My hope is that this event only grows to include more local art installations, bands and food. There is so much talent here in our little chunk of earth, it deserves to be celebrated.


[email protected]