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Big Lights, Big City

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It’s literally lit!

Every September since 2012, the Processional Arts Workshop has orchestrated an annual event known as Morningside Lights, and this year the procession returned to the Columbia campus. Staff Writer Phoebe Newton scoped out the scene for us this Saturday night, to see if it truly was, as they say, lit.

Many Columbia University students argue that our campus and the surrounding area is, in many ways, very sheltered. This fact often rings true, for the convenience of on-campus offerings (as well as financial constraints) often squanders curiosity. On the other hand, if you look hard enough, you don’t have to make a long trek or damage your bank account to find something worth doing. On September 26, 2015, the annual Morningside Lights procession returned to the neighborhood. This year, the procession was themed “New York Nocturne” in order to explore what New York City really becomes when the sun goes down. Is this city’s night life defined by the hipster club-goer? The famous landmarks? Or is there something more tangible that defines this city that we call home?


This impressive procession is the product of a week-long open workshop in which community members are free to come and help design and build many of the lanterns. Participants were told to congregate in Morningside Park just shy of Columbia campus at 8 p.m. At first, the crowd was a small clump of confused college students wearing NSOP-esque glow sticks, but we were soon surprised by an oncoming crowd. As the procession came closer, the audience expanded to include more than just the Columbia/Barnard community. Young families and other neighborhood residents flocked to watch the parade move through the park towards College Walk. The lanterns were modeled to resemble various aspects of New York culture. From a Yankees sign to the Empire State Building, the lanterns represented many of the well-known and well-loved facets of Manhattan.

In the end, this event was more than just a run-of-the mill student gathering. This was an opportunity for students to branch out and meet the people who live around us and to see that there is much more happening here than we may know. In our small “bubble” there are many opportunities to explore what it means to live in New York City. As evidenced by the wide array of lanterns, this city is one that wears many hats, and we don’t always have to travel far to see that. The next time you hesitate to go to a community event, just remember that there’s a lot of culture happening right here in your own backyard.

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