Room Set: A Light Show at the Oklahoma City Convention Center

Oklahoma City Convention Center’s award-winning light sculpture blends technology and art and reflects its locale in an ever-changing way.

Author: Michelle Russell       

Virtual Sky light installation

Artist Susan Narduli told Inside OKC that Virtual Sky was inspired by Oklahoma’s connection with aviation — Oklahoman Wiley Post made history with the first solo flight around the world in 1933 — and titanium, used in the art installation, is the fundamental material of aviation.

Virtual Sky is a real-time LED light sculpture that spans the two large public atriums of the new Oklahoma City Convention Center. Thin, cylindrical, anodized titanium forms suspended on aircraft cable create the 3-D environment that is designed to mimic the movement of the Oklahoma sky. The color palette is meant to reflect the subtle shifts of color that take place throughout the day depending on the current season.

Here’s where art meets technology: Programmable LED lights connected to a stream of information from Oklahoma City Open Data Portals trace the city’s climate data for an in-the-moment visual experience. Silver may not be part of Virtual Sky’s palette, but the color will hereafter be connected to the sculpture, which earned Silver in the International Design Awards 2021 competition in the Architecture Categories of Public Art and Public Art Installations. Susan Narduli, a Los Angeles–based artist and architect, was the project lead with support from 5Ten Visuals, developer Tommy Edkin and OKC Arts.

The project, begun in March 2019 and fast tracked to be completed in December 2020, is the direct result of the Art Ordinance adopted by the Oklahoma City Council in 2009, which stipulates that 1 percent of the construction cost of any building, facility, trail, or park built by the city goes to fund public art.

Narduli said that she spent many nights in neighboring Scissortail Park during the sculpture installation, where she had “a magnificent view for finalizing the piece.” Viewed from inside or outside the building, Virtual Sky evokes a sense of limitless wonder.

Michelle Russell is editor in chief of Convene.

Virtual Sky light installation

Programmable LED lights connected to a stream of information from Oklahoma City Open Data Portals trace the city’s climate data for an in-the-moment visual experience.