Spartanburg, SC, Unveils Seeing Spartanburg in a New Light – Oct. 4, 2016

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Award-winning light and digital media artist Erwin Redl will unveil nine public art installations in Spartanburg, SC, on Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2016, as a part of Bloomberg Philanthropies Public Art Challenge. For more than a year, Seeing Spartanburg in a New Light has been building relationships between police officers and communities through a collaborative art-making process.

The installations will be illuminated in conjunction with National Night Out events across 10 city neighborhoods, starting with a celebration at 4:30pm at Mobile Suspension downtown in Denny’s Plaza, 203 E. Main Street, Spartanburg, SC. Composed of five curtains of semi-transparent acrylic panes – nearly 7,000 in total – Mobile Suspension is the result of Redl’s creative design and the collective efforts of residents and police officers who volunteered to assemble the large-scale installation. During the day, sunlight will shine through the mobile, casting colors onto the ground like stained glass. At night, LED lights provided by Hubbell Lighting Inc. in Greenville, SC, will illuminate the mobile from below.

The Oct. 4 event will feature music, food and comments from Spartanburg Mayor Junie White; Jennifer Evins, CEO of the Chapman Cultural Center; Spartanburg Police Chief Alonzo Thompson and neighborhood residents, who will talk about the year-long effort to revitalize the city through art. The illumination of each installation will coincide with a neighborhood celebration at the site, ending with a grand finale at 8:30pm at Glow at the Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine, 350 Howard St., Spartanburg. See below for a schedule of the Oct. 4 celebration.

“By bringing site-specific art into Spartanburg neighborhoods where residents may feel isolated from traditional cultural assets, this project is already fostering greater understanding of both the artistic process and the transformative impact of public art,” said Jennifer Evins, president and CEO of the Chapman Cultural Center. “We are eliminating barriers as residents become part of the artistic process and help translate ideas into works of art.”

In 2015, the City of Spartanburg was selected as one of four communities to participate in the Bloomberg Philanthropies Public Art Challenge, a new program to support temporary public art projects that celebrate creativity, enhance urban identity, encourage public-private partnerships, and drive economic development. The temporary art project, funded by $1 million from Bloomberg Philanthropies, with supplemental funding provided by regional institutions, corporations, foundations and private donors, is a partnership among Redl, the Chapman Cultural Center, the City of Spartanburg and civic leadership.

Redl, whose art installations have illuminated spaces worldwide, has been working with neighborhood residents and community leaders for more than a year to bring the project to life. The artist said each installation is tailored to its environment and that the scale, medium and design vary significantly, ranging from workshop-based video and smaller light installations to large-scale illuminations of two smokestacks.

“Different structures lead to different aesthetic explorations and community engagement possibilities,” Redl said. “Alternative structures lead to alternative results. Change is inevitable, and, through this process, we begin to see Spartanburg in a new light.”

Mayor White said the efforts of Redl and all of those across the community to bring Seeing Spartanburg in a New Light to life are already bearing fruit.

“The night of Oct. 4 is going to be a great night in the history of our community,” said Spartanburg Mayor Junie White. “Something special is happening in Spartanburg right now. Seeing Spartanburg in a New Light is symbolic of what is happening here, and I can’t wait to see the lights come on for everyone.”

Below is a description of the installations and the schedule of the Oct. 4 events:

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Mobile Suspension, Downtown Spartanburg, Denny’s Plaza, 203 E. Main St. – Lights On – 4:30-6pm, Oct. 4.

Five multicolored mobile curtains float above the center lawn of Denny’s Plaza, located in the heart of Spartanburg’s Downtown Cultural District. Each curtain is 51 feet long and 12 feet high and consists of a woven pattern of translucent acrylic 4-inch by 4-inch squares. The installation was designed to create a dazzling visual experience that changes depending on the time of day, the viewer’s position, and weather conditions. The five shimmering curtains are made of multicolored acrylic squares installed in specific patterns designed by the artist. Community volunteers assembled the curtains over a one-month period using specially designed clips. The rectangular shape of the site gave Redl an opportunity to play with subtle variations within a grid. The artist is interested in creating unique visceral sensations for viewers, and Mobile Suspension offers a kaleidoscopic experience that is fresh with each new encounter.

River Poetry, Andrews Farm and Converse Heights, Cottonwood Trail, 1038 Woodburn Road – Lights On – 5:45pm.

Here, artist Erwin Redl provides an opportunity for visitors to contemplate the role of technology in our lives within a nature preserve. Located between Converse Heights and Andrews Farm neighborhoods, the Cottonwood Trail is a 116-acre urban greenspace with 4 1/2 miles of trails, and is owned and maintained by the Spartanburg Area Conservancy, a membership-based nonprofit organization. By juxtaposing LED displays similar to those used by restaurants and gas stations against the solitude of a meandering creek, the artist creates a tangible demonstration that nature and digital technology can coexist. The project presents local poetry displayed on twelve double-sided LED signs suspended above the Cottonwood Trail. Visitors can read the lines of poetry overhead as they walk along Lawson’s Fork Creek. The layered poetry dimension allows for the community to provide their thoughts, observations, and feelings about nature within this dynamic human/nature system created by the artist. The Hub City Writers Project will curate an ongoing series of poems for River Poetry through March 2017.

Under One Roof, South Converse, Picnic Shelter, 440 S. Converse St. – Lights On – 6:10pm.

This park has special meaning to South Converse residents as a sign of local pride and a link to the past. The local neighborhood association fought hard to get this park funded and completed. Touched by the story of the park’s origin, and inspired by the evident pride in the place, Redl decided to use this picnic shelter to demonstrate the transformative power of turning something ordinary into something extraordinary. Residents have attended workshops to learn how to install and program the LED lighting for the shelter. Redl hopes local residents will want to create special light programs for dances, poetry slams, cookouts, or other events in and around the shelter. By using a simple picnic shelter as the basic structure within which many things can happen, and by involving the local community, Redl has tangibly illustrated that we are all indeed together under one roof.

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Islands of Light, Maxwell Hills, Duncan Park Lake, 293 West Park Drive – Lights On – 6:30pm.

Redl explores the fertile intersection of art, nature and technology with this installation of eight floating islands recalling the image of cattails or reeds swaying with the breeze in an aquatic environment. The scale of the site was particularly interesting to the artist, as it allowed for interactions among water, wind, and sky in addition to light and reflection. The logistical challenges of the project were first taken on by students from Daniel Morgan Technology Center. After meeting with the artist and an engineer, these young technicians created a working prototype, which became the blueprint for the finished islands. A local dock builder was engaged to install these light-topped atolls. The local waterfowl have officially adopted these islands of light.

Benchmark Spartanburg, Forest Park, CC Woodson Recreation Center, 210 Bomar Avenue – Lights On – 6:55pm.

Benches are for sitting, yes, but they can also be a site for romance, business deals, creative pastimes or great conversations. Redl has created a chromatically pulsating bench that he hopes will invite community gatherings, poetry readings and other events that make use of the mesmerizing patterns and shifting color palette. The multiple RGB LED side-lit acrylic panels that make up the bench create an almost cinematic experience, saturating the surrounding environment with gradually morphing gradations of color.

Spartanburg Swing, Hampton Heights, National Beta Headquarters, 267 S. Spring St. – Lights On – 7:15pm.

Twenty-six four-foot-long pendulums are evenly distributed across the glass facade of the National Beta Headquarters building. Their slow one-second pulse animates the surface of the concrete and glass structure. Mixing the simple physics of a pendulum with the off-the-shelf electronics of a small fan and flashlight LED, Spartanburg Swing creates a complex choreography. This kinetic work is controlled by small microprocessors that turn the fans and the lights on and off in intervals programmed by the artist. The pulsing movement is created entirely by intermittent fan bursts and the constant tug of gravity.

The site is the international headquarters of National Beta, whose purpose is “to promote the ideals of academic achievement, character, leadership, and service among elementary and secondary school students.” Headquartered in Spartanburg, the organization has more than 8,750 clubs nationally and internationally. The Hampton Heights neighborhood, comprised of homes built between the 1880s and the 1920s, is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Video Village, Highland Neighborhood, Cammie Clagget Apartments, 317 Highland Avenue – Lights On – 7:35pm.

The artist decided he wanted to turn these empty buildings in the Cammie Clagget apartment complex inside out, transforming the now-vacant units into lanterns that face outward to tell their stories and cast their light into the surrounding community. The artist is interested in reanimating these empty spaces as a way to draw our attention to the question of impermanence and what might be possible for the future. Playing with the dual meaning of the word projection, Redl created a 52-channel video screen and directed White Elephant Enterprises and the Spartanburg Art Museum to curate the content for the installation. The selected videos feature a variety of topics but focus on stories of and about the residents of this historic neighborhood. The curators established a media production studio within the nearby Bethlehem Center to facilitate interviews with residents and to collect vintage home-movie footage and digitize family photographs from the community. The artist hopes to jump-start enthusiasm within the community for making videos of all kinds and sharing them in the public square.

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Glow, Beaumont Village and Northside, Beaumont smokestack, 400 Beaumont Avenue – Lights On – 8:05pm.

Northside smokestack, 350 Howard St. – Lights On and grand finale celebration – 8:30pm.

Both of the mill properties owned by Spartan Mills today serve new purposes, one as the Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine and the other as the administrative offices of Spartanburg Regional Healthcare System. Originally constructed by master builder Thomas Badgett, these two colossal smokestack structures were built in the late nineteenth century out of locally made brick. Edifices such as these, in the heart of mill villages, have historical relevance and serve as symbols of adaptation and change.

Redl has chosen to treat the smokestacks as two synchronized, large-scale canvases for high-powered multicolored lights that bathe the surface of the worn bricks. For the artist, these artworks offer a new way of seeing old structures.

Born in Austria in 1963, Erwin Redl finished his studies at the Vienna Music Academy with two degrees, a BA in Composition (1990) and BA in Electronic Music (1991). He was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship for graduate studies in computer art at the School of Visual Arts, in New York City (MFA 1995). Redl investigates the process of “reverse engineering” by (re-)translating the abstract aesthetic language of virtual reality and 3D computer modeling into architectural environments by means of large-scale light installations.

For the 2002 Whitney Biennial, the artist covered the Whitney Museum’s facade with three multicolor LED veils. In 2008 he created a sound and light installation in the Austrian Pavilion at the World Expo in Zaragoza, Spain. The Pacific Design Center’s new Red Building by Cesar Pelli features four permanent installations by the artist, completed in 2013. Redl’s largest work to date is a computer-controlled, 580-foot-long-LED-installation at the Wexner Center for the Arts in Columbus, Ohio, completed in 2010.

Redl’s work is owned by prestigious national and international institutions, among them the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; the Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego; the Milwaukee Art Museum; and Borusan Contemporary, Istanbul; as well as by private collectors.

The mission of the Chapman Cultural Center is to provide cultural leadership for Greater Spartanburg by developing, strengthening, and promoting the scope, excellence and educational role of the arts, humanities, and sciences, and to further their significance in the life of our community and all of its citizens. Founded in 1968 with a current budget of $2.1 million, the Chapman Cultural Center is the oldest and largest countywide arts agency in the state of South Carolina and is serving as the lead Arts Agency and Project Manager for Seeing Spartanburg in a New Light.

The City of Spartanburg was selected in 2015 as one of four temporary public art projects from across the United States to receive a grant award from the first-ever Bloomberg Philanthropies Public Art Challenge. Other winning cities are Gary, IN, Spartanburg, SC, and Los Angeles, CA.  Full information on all projects can be found at publicartchallenge.bloomberg.org.

Bloomberg Philanthropies works in more than 120 countries around the world to ensure better, longer lives for the greatest number of people. The organization focuses on five key areas for creating lasting change: Arts, Education, Environment, Government Innovation and Public Health. Bloomberg Philanthropies encompasses all of Michael R. Bloomberg’s charitable activities, including his foundation and his personal giving. In 2015, Bloomberg Philanthropies distributed over half a billion dollars.

For more information, please visit (bloomberg.org) or follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter @BloombergDotOrg.

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