Seeing Salt Lake City through light art and technology

By Eylül Yel

SALT LAKE CITY – Illuminate, Utah’s first light art projection and technology festival, took place on November 10 and 11 in downtown Salt Lake City.


According to the Utah Arts Alliance website, the free event for Utahns combines light art and technology. Artists presented their artwork by using the city’s architecture as a blank canvas for their projections. The purpose was to create a citywide museum that would illuminate Salt Lake City’s history and culture through art.


Illuminate used projection mapping – a technology to project light on any 3D object instead of merely using a flat screen. Projection mapping offers a new medium for artists to present their artwork. Illuminate is the first to use the technology in Utah.


I have been wanting to create an event like this in Salt Lake City for a few years as I have been observing light art festivals all around the globe.” said Derek Dyer, executive director of the Utah Arts Alliance and the producer of Illuminate. Dyer said that he had a few challenges along the way that prevented him from making Illuminate happen. Initially it was difficult gathering enough artists in Utah to create an event this big. Dyer started approaching artists during the Urban Arts Festival and eventually got enough participants.

Dyer’s next challenge was funding, but over the years technology has evolved and became more affordable and accessible. “Luckily, a lot of our artists have agreed to work under budget.” said Rio Wimmer, an employee for the Utah Arts Alliance. She explained that they have received a grant from the city and were also grateful for all the sponsors that helped them put the festival together. Of the twenty two sponsors, Mountain View Staging, the company responsible for setting up the technology and electricity for the event,  and Meru Interactive, which created the Illuminate AR app for the festival, were particularly helpful Wimmer said.


A big part of the Illuminate’s innovation , is an app called Illuminate AR said Dyer. Illuminate AR allowed everyone to interact with different artworks during the event using their phone.The app made it possible for participants to view additional artwork during the festival available only to those who use the app. The app also provided additional information on the artwork and it’s creator. Although the app was useful and provided an in depth information on the artworks showcased at the festival, unfortunately, during the event, the app proved difficult to navigate and had a technical bugs that prevented users from scanning markers on certain art pieces.


There were a variety of different activities for children in the Clark Planetarium, Discovery Gateway and Utah Film Center where kids could witness educational demonstrations. A separate part of the festival was held indoors at the Gateway. The Light Lounge, the largest part of the festival, participants met artists and learned more about the events creation. Several artists displayed their artwork and were available to visit with the public.


Two offsite locations were in an alleyway between the Utah Museum of Contemporary Art and Abravanel Hall and on Regent Street behind the Eccles Theater. The alleyway between the Utah Museum of Contemporary Art and Abravanel Hall showcased a demonstration regarding the short animation file, .gif, asking the question “what is contemporary art”. According to the Utah Arts Alliance, .gifs may have not been considered art in the past but now a combination of traditional color theory, the aesthetics of painting, and the use fractal mathematics make it possible for .gifs to be seen as art. The Eccles Theater was used project artwork on and there were food trucks and a DJ booth on site.


The Utah Arts Alliance website called Illuminate a festival where “artists working with technology and using light as their medium will use the city as their canvas and create projection mapped artwork, light art displays and exhibits for the community to enjoy and experience a first of its kind experience”. However, the initial Illuminate only used two buildings and it was only a small portion of the festival.


Illuminate was different than any other art festival Utahns have ever witnessed in the state. It was innovative and interactive. It was a good opportunity to see unique artworks by artists who use light and technology as their medium.


Though Utah Arts Alliance is a reputable organisation that organizes the majority of the art festivals in Utah, it was their first time creating a light art festival. Getting an event set up that involved this much power and technology was new to them. “There were little issues here and there, but overall we think the event was a success.” said Dyer on an interview after the event. “We were really pleased with the turnout, over twelve thousand people attended the festival.” said Dyer. According to Dyer, Illuminate will become an annual festival in Utah. He said that they will start contacting artists from an earlier date for next year in order to get more artists and artwork involved to expand the festival.


More pictures can be found: Assets

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