OPEN AIR has officially ended, but recordings can still be submitted to the project website,, where anyone can send, listen to, and rate messages. New submissions to the project website will create virtual OPEN AIR designs.

OPEN AIR by Rafael Lozano-Hemmer

Commissioned by the Association for Public Art

Presented with the 2012 Philadelphia Live Arts Festival & 2012 DesignPhiladelphia Festival
September 20 – October 14, 2012 / Nightly from 8:00PM-11:00PM
Located between 21st and 24th Streets on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, Philadelphia

Commissioned by the Association for Public Art, Rafael Lozano-Hemmer’s OPEN AIR (2012) is a spectacular interactive light experience that illuminated Philadelphia’s night sky from September 20 – October 14, 2012. Inspired by the city’s rich tradition of democracy and respect for free speech, OPEN AIR was created specifically for Philadelphia and for participation by the general public. Using a free mobile app developed by Lozano-Hemmer’s studio, participants were invited to record and submit messages of up to 30 seconds in length — shout-outs, poems, songs, rants, dedications, proposals. In response, 24 powerful robotic searchlights stationed strategically along a half-mile section of the Benjamin Franklin Parkway created unique, dynamic light formations in the sky. The lights reacted in brightness and position to the GPS locations of participants and the frequency and amplitude of their voice recording, which could be heard through the app, the project website and public speakers located at the Project Information Center and Information Outpost along the Parkway.

Priority was given to those submitting messages from the Parkway, but for those not onsite, the project website,, allowed users to record messages that were archived and played back by the lights if other web visitors rated them highly. All participants had a personalized webpage created automatically with their message, comments and images of the light sculptures that their voice created. Accessible on the OPEN AIR website, the archive also features selected “Voices of Philly,” recorded messages from distinct individuals past and present who have inspired and influenced the flavor of Philadelphia. Each evening, invited community groups were the first voices and opened the night with their featured messages.


Rafael Lozano-Hemmer (b. 1967, Mexico City) is an internationally recognized Mexican-Canadian artist currently living in Montreal. He has produced large-scale interactive art installations across the globe, including the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics, the 2010 Light in Winter Festival in Melbourne, Australia, and the 50th Anniversary of the Guggenheim Museum in New York in 2009. His work in kinetic sculpture, responsive environments, video installation and photography has been shown in museums and biennials in four-dozen countries.

>>Live Arts interview with Rafael Lozano-Hemmer

>>artnet video interview with Rafael Lozano-Hemmer

>>aPA video interview with Rafael Lozano-Hemmer


Opening Night Celebration

Thursday, September 20, 2012 / 7:30PM – 11:00PM / FREE / Benjamin Franklin Parkway

The Opening Night Celebrations is a FREE public event on September 20, 2012 from 7:30pm – 11:00pm on the inner drive of the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. Opening Remarks and Ceremonial Lighting begin at 8:30 pm. The celebration will include a selection of local food trucks, a live countdown and ceremonial lighting, as well as a presentation by the artist and other special guests. Click here for the Opening Night program.

*Congratulations to the Friends Select School for being the first public voice of OPEN AIR! Having received the highest rating and most votes, their recorded message on was the first to be played during the Opening Celebration on September 20, 2012. To hear their message, click here.

Performing Freedom: Art, Spectacle and Agency in Public

Saturday, September 22, 2012 / 2PM / FREE / Philadelphia Museum of Art

On the occasion of Rafael Lozano-Hemmer’s newest public artwork, OPEN AIR, commissioned by the Association for Public Art, “Performing Freedom” is a panel discussion (or conversation) exploring the possibilities of technology in the service of art to reinforce the public sphere as a site for the coexistence and intermingling of connective spectacle, alternative narratives, and individual agency. Panel participants include: Rafael Lozano-Hemmer; Steve Dietz, President and Artistic Director, Northern Lights, and Founding and Artistic Director, 01SJ Biennial; and Penny Balkin Bach, Artistic and Executive Director, Association for Public Art.

RSVP/Free but tickets are required – visit

OPEN AIR: Richard Sommer and Rafael Lozano-Hemmer in Conversation

Wednesday, October 3, 2012 / 6PM / FREE / PennDesign, University of Pennsylvania

In conjunction with the Association for Public Art and the DesignPhiladelphia Festival, PennDesign is pleased to welcome Richard Sommer, Dean of Architecture, Landscape, and Design at the University of Toronto, in conversation with Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, creator of the interactive public art project OPEN AIR. Ken Lum, Professor and Director of the Undergraduate Fine Arts Program and noted public artist himself, will introduce and Penny Balkin Bach, Artistic and Executive Director of the Association for Public Art will moderate. The conversation will be preceded by Sommer giving a talk in which he will situate Philadelphia, and Lozano-Hemmer’s work within his theory of the Democratic Monument, and a short presentation by Lozano-Hemmer.

RSVP/ Free but tickets are required – visit

Planetarium on the Parkway

Friday, October 12, 2012 / 8:30PM / FREE

The Association for Public Art, the Franklin Institute and artist Rafael Lozano-Hemmer invite you to “Planetarium on the Parkway”: a free interactive presentation of Philadelphia’s night sky, hosted by Chief Astronomer Derrick Pitts. A dynamic and inspirational speaker, Dr. Pitts will direct the robotic searchlights currently performing the artwork OPEN AIR to highlight salient stellar objects viewable from the Parkway. Amateur and budding astronomers are welcome to bring their telescopes!

Featured Community Groups

Nightly (September/October 2012) / 8PM / Project Information Center, Eakins Oval

To kick-off each evening, diverse community groups and their messages will be featured at 8:00pm the OPEN AIR Project Information Center at Eakins Oval. A list of featured groups and their scheduled participation can be found in the OPEN AIR brochure.


Partners and Supporters of OPEN AIR include: the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation; the National Endowment for the Arts; the City of Philadelphia Parks & Recreation and Office of Arts, Culture and the Creative Economy; Audubon Pennsylvania, Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corporation (GPTMC); Center City District; Parkway Council Foundation; Canadian and Mexican Consulates; Mexican Cultural Center; Park Towne Place Apartments – an Aimco Community; Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Rodin Museum; Sautter Crane Rental; The Victory Foundation; Independence Foundation; Prudent Management Associates; Theodore R. and Barbara B. Aronson; The Honickman Foundation; H.F. (Gerry) Lenfest; The Pincus Foundation; 6abc, WHYY; Metro Philadelphia; Tierney; Clear Channel; Take One Production; Expert Events; Catering By Design; and individual donors, among others.  

Additional Donors Include: Dennis Alter; The Arcadia Foundation; Suzanne Sheehan Becker; Brodsky Family Foundation; Burke Family Foundation; Capriccio Cafe; Eugene B. Lefevre; Mr. and Mrs. D. Christopher Levine; Charles E. Mather III, Esq.; J.J. Medveckis Foundation; Marsha and Jeffrey Perelman; David Seltzer and Lisa Roberts; and Constance and Sankey Williams. 


General Inquiries:

Media Inquiries Only:

Caitlin Martin,

Press Release / Online Press Room with Hi-resolution Images

OPEN AIR in the News