Downtown lights will sparkle, spin and dazzle Friday night – from the ArtsCenter to the Ackland Arts Musuem – for the “Shimmer: The Art of Light” festival.
The free festival – the first of its kind in North Carolina – celebrates the nature of light and the playfulness of interacting with it, artists and event manager Sarah Wolfe said. Festival-goers are encouraged to dress in illuminated costumes; prizes will be awarded for the best dressed.
“It will be a magic experience, I think, walking around and seeing what the next thing is going to be,” Wolfe said.
The fun takes place from 6 to 11 p.m., in conjuntion with February’s 2nd Friday ArtWalk event. Raleigh-based Cirque de Vol Studios performers, armed with fire, fiber-optics and LED lights, will entertain pedestrians along the route.
Wadesboro native Louis St. Lewis – renowned for his glamorous style – will be among 23 artists from the Triangle and six states stationed along the route. His fanciful chandeliers of wire and lucite crystal will dangle from the tall trees in front of Calavera at 300 East Main.
The work won’t be finished until just before the show, St. Lewis said; he’s pondering a tribute to rock icon David Bowie.
“I think about fireflies. I think about lightning striking. I think about when you’re at the beach and sunset hits, and you have that last blue flash onto the waves sometimes,” he said. “It’s supposed to be ephemeral, it’s supposed to be transient, and it’s supposed to be just for a moment and beautiful.”
There are many ways that light is a “living” medium, behaving in unexpected ways when people and objects cross its path, Chapel Hill artist Nuno Gomes said. His “Organic Light” creates a feedback loop, using ambient light from its surroundings to generate spontaneous silhouettes and patterns.
“What I always enjoy is the engagement with the piece more than looking at it from afar,” Gomes said. “That’s when I think there’s always a little bit more of an emotional response – when you walk into this thing, where something that you do changes what you’re seeing in front of you – there’s a ‘wow’ moment that changes the way you see the piece.”
Richmond, Va., has hosted a similar arts festival, InLight, for the last seven years, Wolfe said. The event attracted more than 30,000 people last year.
Shimmer is funded, in part, with money from the Carrboro Tourism Authority and the town of Chapel Hill Public and Cultural Arts department, she said. Other partners include the Duke Energy Foundation and the Chapel Hill-Orange County Visitors Bureau.
The artists will be on hand to talk about the work and encourage people to get involved, Wolfe said. Some also will be selling their works.
Carrboro artist Leigh Suggs recently moved to Richmond to attend Virginia Commonwealth University, but she will return to LIGHT Art+Design with a new work of dichroic glass that floats in space, reflecting an atmosphere of color.
Dichroic glass gets it reflective properties from a special coating originally developed for use in satellite mirrors and space shuttle re-entry tiles. The effect is similar to rainbow patterns in a soap bubble or in the wings of a dragonfly.
Her works, Suggs said, explore the act of seeing in multiple ways, whether it’s the colors you see when you close your eyes or her mother’s experience with synesthesia, a condition that causes her to see the color of words when she reads.
“It’s this idea that we all see different, and we all are experiencing the world through a very private lens, but we have language and imageries that help connect us to be able to talk about these things together.” Suggs said. “The light, of course, is part of that, because light is the thing we need to be able to see.”
Nearly two dozen artists will light up downtown for “Shimmer: The Art of Light” festival from 6 to 11 p.m. Friday, Feb. 12, in Chapel Hill and Carrboro.
Organizers of the free, pedestrian-friendly event invite festival-goers to join the fun with illuminated costumes, glow paint and glow toys and accessories. A three-judge panel will choose the best-dressed winners at 7 p.m. in the gravel lot on Merritt Mill Road.