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Interactive ‘Eye’ Art Installation Launches in Ballston

The eyes have it. A new art installation featuring interactive LED-lit eyes launched today at the final Ballston Farmers Market of the season.

The display is called “The Eyes of Ballston” and users interact with it through their mobile device. The concept is that five characters live in the tree in the middle of Welburn Square — the baby, the grannie, the flirt, the grump and the raver — and they look at users through the interactive eyes.

Visitors stand near the tree and answer a character’s questions on their mobile device, to which the character responds via the eyes. The character will display different emotions depending on the user’s answer. They can perform numerous actions, including crying, winking and blowing a kiss. Each character has a circadian rhythm, so they’re not all awake and interacting with people at all hours of the day.

“I want them [users] to have fun and interact and enjoy public art, and understand that a great piece of public art is great for place-making and bringing people together,” said artist Lola Lombard, who came up with the eyes concept. “It’s showing them it’s OK to have a little fun. I like my artwork to always have a sense of humor and I think this does that.”

More than 3,000 LED lights, hundreds of feet of wiring, a metal structure and a Linux-based computer make up the project’s technical components.

“It’s really nice to make this stuff as art,” said Branden Hall, whose role focused on the electronic aspects of the art display. “It’s nice to make people smile, I really enjoy that.”

The display is part of the Ballston BID’s “Public Displays of Innovation” series, which also includes the lifeguard chairs placed throughout Ballston.

“We want to bring the amazing creativity and imagination of the people who live and work in Ballston to the street level,” said Ballston BID CEO Tina Leone. “We weren’t even sure at first if it could be done. I didn’t realize it was going to be this cool. It makes you stop to think about how you interact with your neighborhood.”

Sen. Tim Kaine showed up at the farmers market, campaigning for County Board candidate Alan Howze. He checked out the electronic eyes and said he likes the idea of having more public art in communities.

“Why not make communities beautiful?” Kaine said. “I think art, and it doesn’t have to be expensive, I think it makes people feel better about the place where they live.”

The interactive eyes will be in Welburn Square through November.

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