“South Bend River Lights” is a new, innovative public art installation that transforms
the St. Joseph River into a canvas of living art.
Color splashes from two interactive light sculptures on either side of the river, amplifying the majestic cascade of water, joined with a third sculpture highlighting the exquisite “Keeper of the Fire” statue, and symbolically uniting the two sides of the river.
Located in the heart of South Bend, near Seitz Park and the Century Center Island, the display serves as an economic development engine, a source of community advancement, a tool for visitor attraction, and a destination for recreational, artistic, and entertainment delight. The lighting pieces are interactive, and will be thematically colored to correspond with holidays and events. It is the only display of its kind in the entire world.
Interact with the South Bend River Lights
Hours: The River Lights turn on 1/2 hour before sunset and stay on until sunrise, however, the interactive feature stops at Midnight. At Midnight they go into "sleep" mode and will remain a natural color.
Best Viewing Spots: Seitz Park, Colfax Bridge, Island Park, and Pier Park. 24 hour access is available to Island Park except during private events. Parking: Downtown parking is free during evenings after 5:00 p.m. and on weekends. The best available parking to access the River Lights is along Niles Ave., Colfax Ave., Century Center and Seitz Park.
River Lights Interactivity: There are sensors built into the light pillars that detect motion, prompting the lights to change color or alter their pattern as a result of people moving nearby. Visitors can send a flow of colored lights across the river, and visitors on the other side can send a flow of color back.
River Lights Secrets: At the top of each hour, the River Lights will tell you what time it is. The interactivity will automatically reset 15 minutes before each hour. Visitors are encouraged to experiment how different movements effect the lighting and patterns. After a certain sequence the River Lights will offer a special lighting show.
General Information: The lights use LEDs, an energy efficient and long-lasting form of lighting. They are powered by electricity. The plan is to eventually provide the sculpture's power through a hydroelectric turbine that exists at the South Bend dam.
Usage Policy: The South Bend River Lights is a public art piece bringing life to the St. Joseph River every night through a series of interactive light shows projected on the cascading water. The light show is cast from decorative sculptures on each side of the river that are set to turn on 30 minutes before sunset and conclude at midnight. Artist Rob Shakespeare created the light program with specific, consistent designs that are intended to be the primary display at the South Bend River Lights. The River Lights may be programmed for special occasions of local, regional, or national significance as directed by the Mayor’s Office and the Lighting Administrator.
The following occasions may be commemorated:
• National, state or local holidays
• Honor local, state, or national figure
• Events with national or international significance
• University of Notre Dame and South Bend Cubs events
- LIGHTING ADMINISTRATOR
The Mayor will appoint a Lighting Administrator who is responsible for the maintenance and oversight of the South Bend River Lights. The Lighting Administrator will have authority to make decisions on the use of lighting to commemorate an event or occasion that meets the purposes of this policy. The Lighting Administrator will coordinator with the Mayor in advance of the action. Requests that are personal or niche in nature will not be honored. If you believe you have a request that is within the parameters of this policy, please submit the request at least 30 days in advance to: firstname.lastname@example.org
- DEFAULT LIGHTING
The default program starts a half hour before sunset and ends at midnight. The light show cycles hourly. Built in sensors prompt the lights to change color or alter their pattern. At five minutes before the top of each hour, the lights enter a solid, natural colored state until the top of the hour when the lights flash the time, corresponding with the hour. The lights go to “sleep” mode and remain a natural color after midnight. The show resumes in the morning from 6:00 AM until sunrise.
- PRESCHEDULED SPECIAL EVENTS
The occasions listed below are prescheduled to be commemorated with special light sequences. The lighting sequence will be commenced up to three days in advance of the event and terminated up to three days after the event as deemed appropriate by the Lighting Administrator.
• Valentine’s Day
• St. Patrick’s Day
• Memorial Day
• Independence Day
• Veteran’s Day
• Christmas Day
The South Bend River Lights are the physical, lasting component of SB150: South Bend's yearlong sesquicentennial celebration.
The River Lights are a commemorative birthday gift to the City of South Bend to celebrate the 150th anniversary of its incorporation. The installation was part of a concentrated effort to focus attention and energy on the river, as expressed in the 2025 City Plan for Smart Growth. Internationally renowned Artist Rob Shakespeare designed the project.