Benjamin Franklin Parkway to feature glowing pedicabs in 'Fireflies' art installation for 100th birthday

The Benjamin Franklin Parkway turns 100 years old this year, and the Association for Public Art has announced the dates of a massive, mobile art installation from an internationally renowned artist to mark the occassion. 

The Parkway will “Fireflies” installation from Sept. 14 to Oct. 8, by New York-based Chinese artist Cai Guo-Qiang, whose work was previously featured during the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing. Commissioned by the Association for Public Art and Fung Collaboratives, the project will consist of 27 “luminous, kinetic sculptures inhabiting the form of free pedicabs,” as an APA release says. The project was initially announced in 2015, but was pushed to this fall because of the Parkway's centennial. 

Participants will be able to ride around the Parkway as passengers in the pedicabs. The exhibit will be available for view on the Parkway Thursdays through Sundays for four hours per night.

Initially announced in 2015, the installation is being made possible by a $300,000 grant from the Pew Center for Arts and Heritage, according to an Inquirer report. The project was delayed from launching in 2016 due to the timing of the grant, Cai’s schedule, and the approaching Parkway centennial, APA executive director and chief curator Penny Balkin Bach said.

The installation's opening ceremony will include an elaborate performance in which “900 Chinese-inspired lanterns will create aerial drawings in the night sky,” the New York Times reports. “Fireflies,” the APA says online, was inspired by Cai’s childhood memories of traditional lantern festivals.

“Perhaps the many colors and shapes of the glowing lanterns will remind viewers of the multiplicity of people who come from around the world to root in the United States,” Cai said of “Fireflies” in a statement to the Times.

Camera icon Caitlin martin / Association for Public Art
"Big Bling," Martin Puryear.

In addition to Cai’s coming installation, the APA will also bring sculptor Martin Puryear’s “Big Bling” to Philadelphia for six months beginning in June this year. The 40-foot sculpture, made from wood and chain-link fence, is an abstract work that the APA describes as “architectural” in nature.