You don’t have to be in public office to have a big, positive impact on your community,” says Lyn Burke ‘83. But as the daughter of a long-serving Massachusetts state legislator, she didn’t always believe that.
Burke studied political science at Suffolk while working at the State House and planning a career in government. For two decades she worked in and around politics, building a strong reputation in government relations. She considered following in her father’s footsteps and running for office. Then a chance meeting on an airplane changed her trajectory.
Light bulb moment
“I met an artist who had a vision for bringing projection art to Boston,” says Burke. She was aware of large-scale-lighting public art projects— intricate light shows with narratives and audio are projected onto famous buildings—in major cities around the world. “So the thought of bringing one to Boston captured my imagination.”
Burke knew there would be significant obstacles to such a project: funding, permitting, and logistics chief among them. With her political savvy, she was just the right person to navigate the bureaucracy and bring the concept to life.
That in-flight conversation led to “Lights of Boston 2015,” a holiday light and music show that illuminated the Boston Public Library and delighted passersby.
A new mission
“Lights of Boston” was such a success that Burke decided to continue full-time with the work. She cofounded Luminartz, a non-profit that works with artists and arts agencies to provide logistical and government relations support for lighting-based public art projects, with long-time friend and designer Stacey Maclay. Through Luminartz, Burke finds the right mix of grants and sponsorships to support public art events and works with community groups to amplify resources.
“We give artists a platform and a paycheck,” she says. “And our events have a broader impact for the city, entertaining families, bringing more people into the city in the evenings, and boosting the local economy with that increased foot traffic.
(Solar Forest by Vanessa Till Studio)
Burke’s most prominent partnership to date has been on ILLUMINUS, an annual lighting festival in Boston. ILLUMINUS 2017 —presented by Luminartz, Illuminus Boston, and the Downtown Boston Business Improvement District —brought together more than 20 artists to create immersive, interactive displays in Downtown Boston, which encompasses Suffolk’s campus, during two nights in November. She is hard at work now planning an even more ambitious ILLUMINUS event for 2018.
“It can get lonely on a daily basis to work behind the scenes,” says Burke. “But it’s worth it to see people in the streets holding hands, singing, dancing, creating friendships and fellowship. Public art is the catalyst for bringing diverse communities together.”