Light, Words, Life


Client: Indianapolis and Marion County Central Public Library

Completed: 2007

Location: Indianapolis, Indiana United States

Artwork Budget: $100,000


CSO Shenkel, Shultz

C.M Buck & Associates Inc.

Hunt Construction


“Light, Words, Life” is a light and glass installation that welcomes visitors to an elevator lobby at the Indianapolis and Marian County Central Public Library. Situated in the first floor basement garage, layers of colored light undulate across the length of a 40 foot west wall, leading visitors towards two elevators and a 10 foot square adjoining wall. There, a poem described in colored light, encourages readers to think of the importance of words and writing and how they illuminate our lives. The artist invited Indiana Poet Laureate, Joyce Brinkman, to write the poem especially for the project.


The architects wanted an artwork that would guide visitors from a basement-parking garage to an elevator lobby that provides access to a new library atrium above. The successful project would give the public a visually stimulating experience as they wait to be taken to the areas above. The artist’s solution starts with a long west wall. An arrangement of colored light begins in the lot and pierces a dividing glass wall. It accentuates the angled opening of the space with its cool/warm color shifts and directional composition. The shorter south wall draws people further into the space towards the elevators. There, they discover a short illuminated poem described in a playful composition of light. The poem and carefully considered environment greet visitors of all ages and social backgrounds with a meditative artwork that celebrates light, words and life.


The artist, through experiments with controlled reflections and refractions, designed a system that allowed accurate placement of shapes and colors with built-in flexibility for final adjustments on-site. Equipment used includes: 5 Lucifer Lighting illuminators, custom made Schott Spectraflex fiber optic harnesses, and dichroic float glass from Austin Thin Films. Angled protective glass enclosures protect the work from dust and curious viewers.


The project focuses on using light as an appropriate metaphor for reflection, illumination and enlightenment. Hidden in the line of colored light on the long west wall are reflections of letters and occasional words taken from the poetry wall. The poem commissioned from Indiana’s Poet Laureate, Joyce Brinkman describes how words have the power to transform peoples’ lives: Light Captured In words won’t Hide in shadow It emerges to illuminate life.