Downtown Boston BID’s ‘Light Rover’ Hits the City Streets

Artist Ross Miller created a traveling light show to dazzle folks who attend festivities in the neighborhood.
Photo courtesy of Downtown Boston BID/Ross Miller

Photo courtesy of Downtown Boston BID

Hubways are a great mode of transportation for getting around Boston. But artist Ross Miller’s four-wheeled traveling light show is way better.

Called the “Light Rover,” some patrons who frequent Downtown Crossing or the Rose Kennedy Greenway’s Dewey Square may already be familiar with the flashing strobes that burst with rainbow-like colors flickering back-and-forth from the vehicle. But now residents and visitors should expect to see even more of it.

According to the Downtown Boston Business Improvement District, or BID, who will be exclusively using Miller’s new human-propelled art show to get around the city and welcome people to the district, the Light Rover made its official debut for a test run on September 4.

“He developed the ‘Light Rover’ specifically for our use in Downtown Boston,” said Rosemarie Sansone, president of the Downtown Boston BID, a private, non-profit corporation created by property owners in that section of the city to help revitalize and transform the neighborhood.

Sansone said the Light Rover is a traveling exhibit tied to the BID’s “Pause” public art program, which she billed as a mission to help people see the city in a different light—quite literally. The program has introduced new murals and other forms of outdoor entertainment to the area to help spruce up the streetscape.

Miller told Boston he likes to think of the rover as an “urban toy” that he hopes will call attention to the 19th century architecture in Downtown Boston, and highlight oft-ignored elements of nature like snow piles, and steam billowing from the grates in the ground during the winter.

“I worked a lot doing different lighting artworks in the Downtown Crossing area, and so I have been thinking about that space for years and years,” said Miller, who works out of his studio space in Allston, where he manufactured the Light Rover during a nine-month period with the help of electrical engineers and steel fabricators. “There’s some wonderful architectural details there and I always thought, ‘how wonderful would it be to spotlight those and the steam grates as an atmospheric event?'”

The Light Rover is propelled by constant pedaling, and can seat two “ambassadors” from the BID, who will travel to outdoor events and greet patrons with the glowing spectacle that’s controlled by an on-board panel. Miller said the lights flash with the help of a 24-volt battery that can store up to 1,000 watts of power for six hours, and provide a strong level of light without having to be recharged too frequently.

There’s a total of seven lights strapped to the rover—red, green, blue, and white LEDs with filter lenses—which can be adjusted, dimmed, or strobed, he said. Miller plans on collaborating with students and artists from all around the city to integrate his light-spewing vehicle into their projects.

“In a poetic way, I just want to call attention to the urban landscape,” he said.

Miller, a visual artist who is known for his quirky outdoor works, aims to connect the community and get people scratching their heads in wonderment with his visually unique projects.

Besides the Light Rover, Miller has installed outdoor benches with interactive features—like ones that rock back and forth like a seesaw—and put up signs along nature trails to help people better appreciate the outdoors.

You can see more of Miller’s work here.

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Steve Annear Steve Annear, Digital Writer at Boston Magazine sannear@bostonmagazine.com