In the lead-up to the one-year anniversary of the Isla Vista killings, UCSB art students are paying tribute to the victims lost by lighting Isla Vista with blue LED lights.
The month-long Blunite project seeks to unite Isla Vista by displaying blue LED ropes and tea lights in public parks, county buildings, businesses and households as a symbol of solidarity. The LEDs are the same lights invented by UCSB professor and Nobel laureate Suji Nakamura.
“I think this is a nice way for us to still pay our respect and be supportive and stand in solidarity together but also help the community move forward and past the tragedy,” said arts major Maddie Berger, one of the UCSB students spearheading Blunite.
Art Professor Kim Yasuda originally presented the idea of illuminating Isla Vista to her students in the fall after noticing the absence of lighting in the area. Influenced by Media Arts Professor Marcos Novak’s LED lighting of the Pardall Tunnel — a gesture symbolizing Isla Vista’s relationship with the campus — Yasuda and her students took the idea a step further.
“I felt if we were going to do the lighting project, it had to serve as an illuminated bridge between campus and community,” Yasuda said. “If it stopped at the tunnel, it would be hitting the border and not addressing the real issue of Isla Vista.”
Berger and arts major Raphaella Faria, both of Yasuda’s IV Open Lab course, got the ball rolling in late April and launched a mass social media campaign to fundraise and spread awareness. Despite being on short time, Berger listed almost half of the restaurants in Isla Vista participating in the project and managed lighting up Isla Vista Theater and Embarcadero Hall.
Blunite plans to distribute blue LED tea lights during Saturday’s memorial candlelit vigil as an alternative to wax candles. UCSB’s Associated Students purchased 4,000 tea lights to be handed out at the vigil, said Yasuda, but free tea lights are already available at the Isla Vista Food Co-op.
Paper-bag lanterns with tea lights will also line Pardall Road and the Loop the day of the vigil, creating a pathway of blue LED lights.
“People are free to take them after and have them on their window and still continue to support,” Berger said.
Blunite extends to the end of May, but people behind it hope the event catches on to mark the occasion yearly and remember the victims, while still showing support of the community.
“In four years from now, most likely there won’t be any student who was here in Isla Vista during the tragedy,” Faria said. “Our perception of it will vary a lot, but we’re definitely trying to make this an annual event so that everyone, if they were here or not, can still feel united.”