Well versed in lighting techniques for the stage, students in the theater lighting program at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts were introduced to another level of design when program director Norman Coates invited architectural lighting designers Paul Gregory and Jonathan Speirs to teach the fall 2008 master class. With the goal of taking the students' theatrical mind-set to another place, Gregory (of New York-based Focus Lighting) and Speirs (of Speirs and Major Associates in the UK) led the students to create temporary light installations on the neoclassical façade of Winston-Salem's Millennium Center-a former post office and federal courthouse, now an event facility. As inspiration, the students turned to works by artists such as Marc Chagall, Dan Flavin, and Vincent van Gogh. Six teams-made up of sophomores, juniors, and seniors, who acted as team leaders-were asked to provide approximately five minutes of material featuring numerous interpretations of their artists' works. "The idea was to have a 25- to 30-minute program that we could keep recycling," Coates says.
Not surprisingly, the students relied on a variety of techniques from the theater: backlighting of the windows, similar to what would be done in a standard interior set; stage-like compositional considerations, including focal point, midground, background, and the juxtaposition of foreground against background; the motion of light across the façade, similar to the students' understanding of theatrical cuing; and reading the building as they would a script or score. As senior Brad Peterson explains, "When we began the process of designing the lighting plan, I found it to be very similar to theater-the way that a theatrical lighting designer analyzes a script, we were analyzing a building." The installation was on view for three nights, Nov. 13-15, 2008, in conjunction with the Piedmont Craft Fair.
Project The Winston-Salem Light Project 2008: A Celebration of Light and Art, Winston-Salem, N.C.
Institution University of North Carolina School of the Arts, Winston-Salem, N.C.
Lighting Program Director Norman Coates
Guest Instructors Paul Gregory, Focus Lighting, New York; Jonathan Speirs, Speirs and Major Associates, Edinburgh, Scotland
Student Senior Designers Sean Beach, Alex Fogel, Michael Kohler, Paola Rodriguez, Samuel Rushen
Student Project Coordinator Brad Peterson
Electricians Eric Gerard, Leo A. Goldstein
Photographer Norman Coates
Manufacturers 4Wall Entertainment Lighting, Electronic Theater Controls, Lutron, Philips Color Kinetics
Sponsor Lucifer Lighting, San Antonio