COLUMBIA — The neon lights of The Tiger Hotel and Jesse Hall's dome were two of the familiar city sights that disappeared into the dark Saturday night.
The World Wildlife Fund designated the Earth Hour from 8:30 to 9:30 p.m., and for a fourth year the Columbia Climate Change Coalition encouraged residents to turn off all nonessential electrical devices and join a worldwide movement to raise awareness about sustainability efforts.
Among several Columbia businesses that participated in the event, the Orr Street Studios hosted an evening of painting by candlelight. Five or six candles were placed in a circle in the center of the studios' floor, highlighting the textures in the artwork hanging on the walls. Others were picked up by the visitors trickling into the studios to guide them through the darkened hallways and provide a warm escape from the chilly outdoors.
Catherine Parke, an artist at the studios, said this Earth Hour event brought forth ideas about art and environmental consciousness.
"It's something to explore," Parke said. "Combining sustainability and using our resources in a more thoughtful and meditative, conscious way, and also just exploring some possibilities for painting."
Parke said the sole use of candlelight to create artwork inspired an artistic environment from a different era.
"Of course, there's a long tradition of painting by candlelight before there was electricity — we're not just thinking this up," Parke said, laughing. "It's a marvelously rich component of art history, both the practice of art history and the subject matter of painting."
Along other downtown streets, the light from rows of candles reflected on glass windows in Sycamore restaurant and Uprise Bakery. At MU, the dome of Jesse Hall, the Columns and Stankowski Field were eerily dark.
Begun in 2007 in Sydney with more than 2 million people and 2,000 businesses, Earth Hour grew to include more than 128 countries and territories in 2010, according to the event's website. Monta Welch, president of the coalition, noted that Columbia's participation in the event has expanded over the past four years.
"It's growing each year into a much larger sustainability movement that focuses on all the issues of sustainability, but especially climate change and the impact that it’s having on our nation and around the world," Welch said.
Welch said the list of participating businesses grew from last year's.
"We’ve added a number of new names that we didn’t have last year, and we hope to continue to do that," she said. "We hope to add more and more businesses as they see this as a more viable opportunity for them to show how they’re going green."
The coalition has petitioned and worked with city departments and organizations to boost event participation and "take our game to the next level," Welch said of the sustainability efforts. She said the coalition has asked Boone Electric Cooperative and Columbia Water and Light for help in measuring the impact of Earth Hour.
“It’s about realizing that we’re in solidarity with other people doing this — 88 other countries or more possibly by now, over 4,000 major cities around the world,” Welch said.
Welch said she hopes the event will connect residents with a larger effort.
"In order to not stalemate the conversation, it’s important to know that if we take care of the environment and the undeniable pollution right in front us, that would go an awfully long way to making a difference in every area," she said. "If we just do what we see right in front of us, we can make a big difference not just for this hour but beyond the hour."