The artist behind Illuminating Lincoln: Lighthouse stood with her fists together near her face at the top of the stairs at Haymarket Park Friday night. She stared at the auctioneer as she rattled off bid prices on the first lightbulb sculpture, her excitement growing with each bid.


Liz Shea-McCoy clapped as a grin lit up her face.

She, along with co-founder and president of Lincoln Lighthouse Peter Allman and Lighthouse executive director Bill Michener, coordinated the public art project.

The project was designed to raise money and celebrate the 25th anniversary of Lighthouse's after-school programs. It culminated at Haymarket Park Friday with the auction of the 51 sculptures that have been on view citywide for the past five months. The bulbs lined the concourses as images of the bulbs for auction flashed on the center-field screen.

Shea-McCoy called the project a "team effort." She said her No. 1 goal with each project is to educate the public, which she felt she did with this one.

Shea-McCoy was also the driving force behind Lincoln's first public art project, Tour de Lincoln, featuring bicycle sculptures, in 2002.

She never imagined the lightbulb project would take on the life that it did, she said. The project was originally to be limited to 25 bulbs for the 25th anniversary of Lighthouse.

"We had an amazing group of artists," she said. She praised their talents as well as their camaraderie, communication and sharing of ideas and materials.

"The problem with artists is lots of times you feel isolated," Shea-McCoy said. "When you take on a new project, you go, gosh, what do I do?"

The bulb artists made sure that wasn't the case with this project. Everybody was caring and helpful to each other, she said.

Artists never know how the public will respond to their projects, she said. She said she was glad the public embraced the project, as another lightbulb was sold Friday night.

Theresa Thomssen purchased a pair of bulbs that sat on University of Nebraska-Lincoln's Innovation Campus called Sky's the Limit. This is the third public art project she's bought -- one was a Tour de Lincoln bike, she said. The lightbulbs will be installed at her acreage.

"This is a community art project, and we support that," Thomssen said.

Thomssen, who lives just outside of Lincoln, said she wasn't expecting to spend the $8,500 she did on the project. She and her family attended the auction specifically to support Lighthouse, she said. She justified spending more than she planned because it was a "very worthy cause."

Her friends made the project she bought, she said. She wanted to buy the bulbs but thought they'd be too expensive to buy.

"But I did, so, yay!" she said.

A 63-year-old Lincoln man purchased an owl-covered bulb called "Night Light" for $7,500. He said he plans to donate the bulb to Wachiska Audobon Society's Fletcher Prairie.

The man declined to share his name. He said people can see his name on the soon-to-be-placed plaque, if they want to find out who donated the bulb.

The man said he's been in touch with a local Boy Scouts of America chapter, and he thinks sprucing up the area around the bulb could make for a good Eagle Scout project. The man said he spent one day as a Boy Scout  -- too much knot-tying for his taste, he said -- but felt the Boy Scouts could put the bulb to good use.

The lightbulbs were on view Thursday at Haymarket Park and hit the auction block at 6:30 p.m. Friday. The sale proceeds weren't finalized as of Friday night. The starting bid was $1,000 for each bulb. Two-thirds of the sale price of each sculpture goes to Lighthouse, and one-third goes to the artist.

Reach the writer at 402-473-7223 or On Twitter @mike_shoro.


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