By David Pendered
Atlanta’s Oakland Cemetery is again opening its doors to share glimpses of a slightly altered reality. This time, it’s a nighttime visit for a self-guided tour of illuminated headstones, mausolea, artworks and archival images projected throughout the cemetery – plus craft cocktails, soft drinks and live music.
The show is Illumine 2019. From May 9 through May 12, the events begins at 7 p.m. and end as late as 11:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday nights.
Nearby restaurants are offering discounts to ticket holders, prompting the sponsor, Historic Oakland Foundation, to encourage visitors to plan to make a night of it.
This year’s experience has been modified with lessons learned from Illumine 2016 and Gold Hour, in 2018: Admission each evening is limited to provide visitors a bit more space and time to take in the sights; this year’s event provides access to areas of the park that weren’t opened previously; new lighting treatments have been provided by an array of Atlanta-based artists and lighting designers.
Oakland’s description of the event calls out for attention:
- “Conceptualized by local artists and designers, Illumine’s ethereal tableaux and botanic displays from the cemetery gates to the greenhouse will educate, enlighten, and inspire you with the breathtaking lights of the Atlanta skyline as a backdrop.
- “In addition to the mile-long light display, this rare after-hours experience at a treasured Atlanta landmark will offer live music from The Shoal Creek Stranglers, a bar featuring signature craft cocktails from Old 4th Distillery, an Oakland pop-up shop, and more.”
Under the headline, What You Will See, is a list of attractions:
- “Dozens of displays including lanterns, light-boxes, illuminated headstones, mausolea, and botanicals
- “Archival images and film projected throughout the Cemetery
- “Lighting effects to shine a light on many previously untold stories of Oakland Cemetery, including a poignant and provocative tribute to the people buried and then removed from “Slave Square” and a display highlighting the individuals buried in unmarked graves in North Public Grounds.”
Oakland offers a few safety tips so potential visitors have a better idea of the terrain they can expect to encounter after sunset. The note reminds the cemetery is a historic, functioning cemetery and not a modern tourist attraction:
- “Illumine’s route covers approximately one mile of roads and historic pathways. Although there are no steps on the route, historic gutters, slopes, and brick walkways might make experiencing Illumine 2019 difficult for those with limited mobility. If you are unsure if Illumine 2019 is suitable for you, please contact Richard Harker at [email protected] to discuss your particular circumstances.”
Proceeds of Illumine 2019 benefit Historic Oakland Foundation, as do the proceeds of all events at the cemetery. HOF is charged with collaborating with the City of Atlanta to, “preserve, restore, enhance, and share Oakland Cemetery with the public as an important island of tranquility in the heart of the city,” according to HOF’s 2016 tax return.
More information – To share and see the experience: Hashtag #Illumine2019 and tag @oaklandcetery. Advance ticket prices for Illumine 2019 are $20 adults, $15 students, children and seniors. Add a $5 fee for tickets purchased at the gate. Tickets are available online for the face value plus a surcharge. The gate opens at 7 p.m each night. The program ends an hour after the last entry, which is 9:30 p.m. May 9 and May 12, and 10:30 p.m. on May 10 and May 11.