There are 18 installations in all. Some of them are interactive. DRA commissioned over a dozen local artists to create the displays in plazas and storefronts -- including some now vacant stores and restaurants; businesses broken by the pandemic's economy.
"It's been a challenging year and definitely it's been a challenge in downtown," said David Moore, manager of place-making and activations at DRA. "So we wanted to brighten up downtown and give people a reason to come down and support our local businesses."
Downtown Raleigh’s Illuminate Art Walk debuted tonight as a creative way to brighten up businesses darkened by the pandemic. Tonight at 11, we’ll see if the new COVID curfew dimmed organizers’ hopes #abc11. pic.twitter.com/cg4vH5CDpp— Joel Brown (@JoelBrownABC11) December 12, 2020
Elizabeth Corgan was checking out her 12th installation of the night as she took the self-guided tour with her husband and young daughter.
"We usually just go around and look at Christmas lights in the car anyway. But this is a really cool thing to get out and go see them and see something different," Corgan said.
But in another ironic twist of the pandemic, Friday night's debut of the Illuminate Art Walk comes on the same day as Gov. Roy Cooper's new modified stay-at-home order. Businesses are required to close at 10 p.m.; on-site alcohol sales must cease at 9 p.m.; everyone needs to be off the streets until 5 a.m.
"We've got to get (the pandemic) under control so that we can get back out here," lamented Seth Powell, Corgan's husband. "We want to get back out and support businesses and stuff and don't want to see things closed down all the time."
But the curfew did not seem to dim Art Walk organizers' hopes of brightening the bottom lines of downtown businesses.
"I definitely encourage people to come at 5 p.m. when it's a little bit darker. But, you have plenty of time to come downtown and see all the installations within an hour and a half," Moore said.
DRA bills the event as a safe and socially-distanced way to bring some energy back to downtown. The tour runs nightly through January 8. That's the same day the current modified stay-at-home order expires.