Last year, crowds gathered in front of Gallier Hall to ooh and aah at a series of light installations projected on the building’s facade as a part of LUNA (Light Up New Orleans Arts) Fête. The Arts Council of New Orleans’ inaugural event commissioned a French art collective to create projection mapping installations – basically animated light shows – telling a colorful story of the history of New Orleans. This year the big installation, by the Portuguese group OCUBO, will appear on the side of Ashé Cultural Arts Center’s Power House Theater in Central City, but there are other interactive art events planned starting Nov. 29. Arts Council CEO Kim Cook talks to us about why interactive art represents New Orleans’ identity in 2015.
What’s different about this year’s event? The studio we’re using this year (OCUBO) does work that’s interactive with members of the community. They were here for a weeklong residency in June and worked with kids in the Ashe Cultural Center’s Kuumba Institute and kids that attend St. Martin’s Episcopal School. They did green screen, painting, different things. They’re also using artwork created by Terrance Osborne. So that projection mapping – that optical illusion that the side of the building is moving – and other elements created by the studio will be integrated with images and youth from New Orleans.
Will all the installations use projection mapping, or will they just all be interactive? They’ll all be interactive. There’s only one or two that will be projection mapping – there’s the central big one [at Ashe Power House], and a couple local artists will be showing a little bit of additional projection mapping. There will be a live Pong game – like the old computer game – on the side of a building, and there will be something that’s motion-activated in the windows of the New Orleans Jazz Market, so when you go by it makes a “swush” of color in the windows there. We expect to have more than 10 installation here with local artists on the O.C. Haley corridor and on Julia Street, as well as national artist Jen Lewin with a project called “The Pool” in Lafayette Square – it’s an interactive installation where people can jump around, dance on it, and it has light and sound. And then a performance from artist Miwa Matreyek, who will be at the CAC the last two days of Luna Week.
What is important about these interactive art installations to you? It’s important that we engage New Orleans on the perspective of what people consider a “norm,” which is outdoors, family-friendly spectacles in the street. New Orleans does art in real time. And there’s a whole wave of people who have moved here to work in the tech sector. I really like (Luna Fête) because it represents an intersection of tradition and 21st century possibility. It reflects where the city is in a way that’s accessible. On the long-term, I hope we can engage in a conversation with artists and designers and public space and how we might a master plan for urban lighting here that creates light in underlit spaces. That could be a public safety initiative.
For more information on Luna Fête, visit ArtsNewOrleans.org/Event/Luna-Fête.