The 11th Annual Autumn Lights Festival Lights the Night

by Samee Roberts

Art, nature, and urban gardening enthusiasts from all over the region will flock to Oakland’s Lake Merritt to immerse themselves in the 11th Annual Autumn Lights Festival, a one-of-a-kind interactive art experience that is always the talk of the town. Following last year’s sold-out in-person return, the wildly popular festival takes place over three spectacular nights October 13-15, 2022.

Prepare to be dazzled, mesmerized, and amazed at this magical benefit for the non-profit Friends of the Gardens at Lake Merritt. Guests will be treated to 60+ illuminated art displays – meticulously crafted by a diverse range of gifted Bay Area artists. The experience is both visceral and emotive as displays ranging from petite lanterns to giant lotus blossoms sparkle, beam, and billow throughout Oakland’s beloved seven-acre municipal gardens, recently named among the top five public gardens in California by VIA magazine.

Many of this year’s pieces reflect the hopes and dreams of life post-pandemic ─ as well as the talent and creativity of young Oakland artists. All the participating artists graciously donate their time, energy, and talent to support the efforts of the nonprofit Friends of the Gardens at Lake Merritt which facilitates scores of volunteers for year-round gardening projects, raises funds for capital improvements, and helps keep the gardens free to the public.

Autumn Lights 2022 highlights include:

  •  “Faces of Oakland” ─ Oakland High School’s Visual Arts Academy bedazzles with high-contrast colorized portraits of every student in the Academy. The talented young artists created high contrast portraits, and then used color mixed with glue to produce stained-glass windows of their portraits. The installation will feature over 150 images, back lit with bright LED strips.
  • Serpent Twins ─ from artist, lighting and furniture designer Jon Sarriugarte (Form & Reform Studio, West Oakland), the Jormungand (Midgard) and Julunggul (Rainbow) serpents sit between 2 worlds; the old world that needed and revered them and the present which has shunned such monsters as fears metamorphosed into mythical form. The two 50-foot kinetic mobile sculptures are rendered in metal and cast-off materials using modern science; restoring ancient mythos to the modern world.
  • SubQuercus: Under the Oak ─ Aimee Baldwin, Logan Daniel, and John Daniel float their artistry into the gardens with softly lit hand-crafted paper lanterns of native plants, galls, and wasp nests combined with sound installation. The installation creates a warm and inviting space that celebrates and illuminates the oft-overlooked smaller elements of life found under the gardens’ majestic Coastal Live Oak tree.
  • Greentea.Therapy. ─ from photographer and multimedia artist Jonathan Taylor, Greentea.Therapy. focuses on creating positive messages using videos of flowers and nature. The art piece includes a looping video series of common flowers found in the gardens with positive messages in text.
  • The Lettuce and The Marigorringoa ─ Over the summer, teen blacksmiths Zolie Sarriugarte and Karydis Johnson worked with recycled metal and collaborated to bring two innovative pieces – one a garden light installation and the other a mobile ladybug devised from a wheelchair. Returning to Autumn Lights again this year, their art stems from a desire to use the leftovers in a bucket of scrap metal. Lightsichord ─ from multimedia artist Grant Patterson, Lightsichord is an interactive sound-and- light instrument that comes to life under the command of each person who uses it. Participants wave their hands over its sensor to pluck virtual strings that produce sound and giant waves of colored light. Raise your hand for louder sound and brighter light. Move your hand forward and back to change color and scale. Lightsichord plays pentatonic scales, harmonious groups of notes used by ancient civilizations and modern musicians around the world. Its powerful lights illuminate and accentuate the beauty of natural foliage. This video provides a sneak peek.

The festival will also feature musical performances, children’s activities, an art market, and beer & wine gardens, as well as its popular food court chock-full of local trucks and vendors bringing a wide variety of delicious eats.

The 11th Annual Autumn Lights Festival will be held in the Gardens at Lake Merritt in Oakland October 13- 15, 2022, from 6 to 11 pm nightly. For tickets and other event details, please visit

Editor’s Note: Samee Roberts is the President of Heart of the Town Events and Co-Producer of the Autumn Lights Festival