Building façades were transformed into large-scale works of art by French, German, and local artists from Oct. 10 to Nov. 20, 2008, during the Pittsburgh 250 Festival of Lights. The event, introduced in 2007, is designed to coincide with visual and performance art schedules in an effort to highlight the region's dedication to the arts, engage local residents, and increase tourism. The lighting installations used various technology and illumination techniques to achieve the creative designs.
This year, the festival's footprint extended past Pittsburgh's downtown area. In the city's Oakland neighborhood, the 535-foot-tall Cathedral of Learning (the second-tallest educational building in the world) was illuminated, along with more than 15 churches, synagogues, and temples to “showcase the architectural history and prowess of this region and engage the interfaith community and their parishoners through neighborhood walks, worship, and historical tours,” according to a press release. This year's light festival, which featured more than 20 installation sites illuminated by high-intensity projectors using lamps ranging from 6000W to 12000W, was part of a larger celebration in honor of the 250th anniversary of the naming of the region in 1758. “We're proud to do our part in creating such a unique festival,” says Morgan O'Brien, president and CEO of Duquesne Lighting, a lead sponsor of the event. “A lighting festival like this has never been seen in the United States.”
A walking map was available to visitors at either the installation sites or online that showed the illuminated locations both downtown and in Oakland. In the downtown area, prominent sites such as the Omni William Penn Hotel, David L. Lawrence Convention Center, Agnes R. Katz Plaza, and a handful of churches and cathedrals featured light installations during the festival. In the Oakland/East End part of town, the Cathedral of Learning, Stephen Foster Memorial, and numerous places of worship hosted large-scale lighting designs.
To encourage repeat visitors throughout the festival's duration, some of the locations, such as Katz Plaza in Pittsburgh's Cultural District and the Cathedral of Learning, featured more than one lighting design. Lucette de Rugy, French lighting producer and executive director of New York–based Artlumière, is the creative mind behind the light installations in Pittsburgh. For the festival, de Rugy worked with French designer Corentine Buron, who specializes in the field of light painting and produces art with the use of large-scale still and video projections, and German design team Casa Magica, which includes artists Friedrich Förster and Sabrine Weissinger. “The inspiration for the illumination project came from the incredibly rich architecture of Pittsburgh, which reflects so much its 250-year history, its heritage, as well as its future,” de Rugy notes.
More information about the Festival of Lights is available online at pittsburghcelebrates.org.