Vassar Stories

Matthew Kramer’s Luminous Senior Project

Urban studies major Matthew Kramer’s senior project lit up the Vassar campus—literally. 

Inspired by an attraction that draws thousands of visitors to his hometown of Providence, R.I. every year, Kramer floated 1,000 white balloons on Sunset Lake on the afternoon of May 2. He placed small LED devices inside each balloon, and as the sun went down that evening, the floating balloons glowed in the dark.

Kramer arranged to have Vassar musical groups and the Barefoot Monkeys, a juggling and acrobatic troupe, perform as the floating lights drew hundreds of onlookers to the lake. “The whole event exceeded my expectations,” Kramer says. “It’s something I’d been working on for months, and I was constantly checking weather reports.”

He says he conceived the idea after attending an event called Water Fire—up to 100 floating bonfires on a river in downtown Providence—designed to attract people to the inner city during the spring and summer.

Kramer says he began planning the event at the end of the fall semester, securing permission from the Buildings and Grounds Department and other college officials. He obtained funding for the balloons and the LED lights from a fund administered by the Office of the Dean of the Studies. “I’m indebted to the college for helping me out on that phase of the project,” he says.

It took a team of 20 students about six hours to deploy the balloons on the lake, Kramer says. In the days following the event, hundreds of students, faculty and others on campus approached him to thank him for what he had done. “People were surprised when they saw it, but mostly they were grateful,” he says. “Some told me it was something they’d remember the rest of their lives. It was really satisfying to have done something that made so many people happy.”

Posted Thursday, May 9, 2013