Heard it Here

Wake Forest Students Cover Downtown Winston-Salem

Winston-Salem Light Project Postponed

By: Amalia Klinck-Shearman
November 26, 2013

People walking the Winston-Salem Strollway this spring will find themselves under archways draped with flowing cloth with their movements triggering a wave of lights.

The annual Winston-Salem Light Project, produced by students at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts, normally a November event has been postponed until late March and early April.


Norman Coates, the Director of the Lighting Program at UNCSA, and his light production students decided to postpone the sixth annual production until the spring.

“I’ve always wanted to shift the project to the spring,” Coates said.

For the last six years, Coates, UNCSA faculty and his students have illuminated different downtown Winston-Salem areas. The first Winston-Salem Light Project took place in 2008 when the production team lit the façade of the Millennium Center. Other projects have included illuminations on Fourth Street between Cherry and Marshall Streets called “One City Block: Urban Revelations.” According to the 2010 Light Project website, this project had multiple high-speed video projections and state-of-the-art imaging software that was supposed to “elevate awareness of the urban environment.”

Coates noted that this year’s production was different from past years because this was the first year that the project was not going to be supported by the Arts Council of Winston-Salem Forsyth County.

This year, the project is aligning itself with the RiverRun International Film Festival taking place April in hopes that it will attract a larger crowd under better weather conditions.

According to Coates, moving away from the Art Council’s support and the development of a very elaborate project, he felt students needed more time to work on this year’s project than the short time allowed to work on it.

“Running in the spring, students have a longer time to develop ideas,” said Coates.

The creation, development, and production of the Light Project this year, will be done by four UNCSA School of Design and Production seniors under the supervision of faculty members, Norman Coates, Roz Fulton-Dahlie and Eric Rimes. These seniors in Coates’ lighting production class are responsible for brainstorming project ideas, creating sketches of the production, building and testing prototypes, developing and maintaining the Light Project website, raising grant money necessary for the production and doing all advertising for the project. Students are also responsible for getting all necessary approvals from city officials needed for the project.

For the first time since the creation of the Light Project, students will have almost two semesters of school to create their project versus three months.

In the past, the light projects have been on a much smaller scale ranging from lighting the façade of a few buildings downtown to a block. This year, the light project will be on a much larger scale, working with three quarters of a mile of canvas that will have lights projected on to it and used to light the pathway from Old Salem to downtown.

According to UNCSA student and Light Project artist Wesley Forlines, the project will be interactive and downtown viewers of the production will not only view the display but also act as players. “Each of the gateways we are creating will have a motion detector on it, so everyone is a lighting designer,” said Forlines.

The Strollway will have “lit fabric archways that respond to movement. The effect from the distance will be a visualization of movement in and out of the city center along this historic corridor,” said Forlines.

The 2014 Light Project was inspired by Christo’s “The Gates” art project produced in February of 2005 in New York City’s Central Park. The project was composed of over 7,000 vinyl structures draped with thin flowing orange fabric. The arches were set up on all 23 miles of the park’s pathways. Student producers are hoping to mirror Christo’s work in New York by translating some of what he did to Old Salem and Downtown.

Another project UNCSA students are working to complete by the start of the film festival is to project lights from inside of the Bailey Power Plant to make the building look active as if people were moving inside of the building. According to Coates, students are also planning on lighting the smoke stacks and putting on a light show for viewers.

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