La Panera Centre for Contemporary Arts

Lights to be seen
(Christmas) Lights to be Seen [Llums (de Nadal) per ser vistos] took place in 2013 in the city of Lleida in Catalonia, Spain.

It was organised by the Emiliana Design Studio and La Panera Centre for Contemporary Arts, with the collaboration of the Lleida Down Association and funded by La Caixa’s Art for Social Progress programme.

The project comprised the design and manufacture of sustainable Christmas illumination to be set in three places in the city.

The goals of the project were to explore the creation of tools that contemporary design can offer to young people with Down’s syndrome, to introduce them to the perspective of design and the interplay between functional and aesthetic considerations, to raise the visibility of young people with Down’s syndrome within the community, and to foster their capacity to engage in team projects that benefit the community.

The participants in the project were young people with Down’s syndrome. Their engagement with contemporary art stems from regular visits to La Panera Centre for Contemporary Arts, in which their creativity is stimulated through guided interaction with art pieces.

What (Christmas) Lights to be Seen offered them was the chance to get close to the world of design and to experiment hands-on with it.

The other crucial agent on the project was the Emiliana Design Studio, formed by Barcelona based designers Ana Mir and Emili Padrós. They suggested illuminating Christmas in the city with the light of sustainability and social inclusion.

The Christmas lights were made mostly with domestic plastic containers (detergent, softener, etc.) which, due to their translucent and chromatic properties, offer great expressive potential when a light source is applied.

Participants manipulated the containers, taking them out of their original context.

Working from an environmental perspective, they transformed the containers into decoration elements that were both attractive and sustainable.  

The lights were placed in Sant Pere square, the façade of Enric Granados Auditorium, and La Panera Centre for Contemporary Arts.

Several other agents, such as the neighbours, schools and families, contributed to the project by collecting containers. There was a premiere event to turn the lights on, which was covered by the press and social media.

The project gave some visibility to young people with Down’s syndrome.

The quantitative evaluation of the project was very positive with regard to both the engagement of the direct participants and the collaboration of further agents that indirectly made the project possible.

On the qualitative side, the project managed to boost the self-esteem, organisational skills and autonomy of young people with diverse cognitive capacities.

The axis that made the project succeed was participation, sustainability, design, inclusion, creation, and experimentation with new materials.

Overall, the project accomplished its goal of turning art into a means for social integration and the shaping of a reality in which everyone fits.

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