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Glastonbury Multimedia Artist Projects A New Look For Holiday Festival

Roger Catlin

December 07, 2010

Marc Herring has faced lighting challenges before.

His Glastonbury-based Herring Media Group has projected giant photo images on various landmarks in the nation's capital, lit up the desert by projecting video onto mountains, and connected into space with satellite projections. Herring is currently working on an "architecure media installation" in New York's Times Square.

So adding a new dimension to Hartford's 48th annual Festival of Light with an illuminating project to be unveiled Friday shouldn't be a problem for the multi-media artist who deals in lighiting on a heroic scale unless you count the wind, the mud and the howls of those who have already rejected the lighting of the darker-than-usual Christmas-tree centerpiece in Bushnell Park that happened on Black Friday.

Herring seemed pleased with his Hartford project during testing last weekend amid a series of three-story lighting towers, as if a mini-Woodstock were going to be staged, though the leap may have to come from the public.

For a people of steady habits used to going to Constitution Plaza to bask in twinkling holiday lights (a beloved annual lighting display that, incidentally, continues), Bushnell Park's twinkling lights will be more conceptual, as envisioned by Herring. Budgetary constraints and time have precluded wiring every tree in the park, which would have taken months, not the weeks Herring was given to whip something up, largely on a volunteer basis.

So his twinkling lights will be giant projections onto the nearby Art Deco edifice of the old SNET building, which has since been turned into parkside apartments. If the public wants other lights projected, or even their own images of holiday lighting, Herring is soliciting digital pictures from the public to include in his show.

As part of his project, Herring plans an animated projection onto Bushnell Park's sometimes forgotten Pump House Gallery, near Pulaski Circle, whose architectural history is also notable. That projection will take advantage of the structure's contours, a design that echoes the nearby castle of the Wadsworth Atheneum and the Tudor touches of the Mark Twain House. The projections will play on the stones of the pump house, which were reclaimed from the several bridges disassembled in 1947 when the winding Park River was buried.

Beyond the projections, Herring's lighting project also will concentrate on the ground level, where banks of lights will illuminate trees from their base and change colors, and sweeps of digital dots approximating snowflakes or a wintery comet shower will wash over the bare branches. There will be swirling images of dreidels and holly as well.

During the trial run, the lighting gave the branches a distinct animation and lift, as if to suggest you had been transported to a magical land.

When the park's ice pond is ready and skaters lace up to take a spin amid the wash of lights, it's likely to bring a new energy to the east end of the park.

For purists, there will be actual twinkling lights, too, mostly on the trees alongside the pond near the carousel.

"The installation in the park was always intended to be a landscape-lighting design primarily composed of color-changing up-lighting on the trees, with sweeping pattern projections on the lawn for the kids and some free-spirited adults to run around in," Herring says. He said he's already heard from people who appreciate the effort to create something new, even if it's modest, and "kids love it."

The projections part of Herring's lighting display will be modest, showing only this Friday and Saturday from dusk to 10 p.m. The more general landscape illumination will be in place from Friday through Jan. 6.

The Bushnell's Festival of Light, with its free ice skating rink, is sponsored by the city in partnership with the Greater Hartford Arts Council, the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts and the Whale hockey team, with funding from several corporations and foundations.

"It's a gift to the city from many, many people," says Herring, who adds that he wants to "acknowledge the vision and open-mindedness of the sponsors."

Herring, a Californian who moved to Glastonbury seven years ago after marrying a woman from Connecticut, says he had some thoughts about Bushnell Park and Hartford before in terms of lighting it in a way he's been using at other sites. One design shows a burst of light towers emanating from the park, to declare Hartford to the world while using some of its icons. Mark Twain, for example, floats skyward in one mock-up.

The Festival of Light work, commissioned as late as it was (just last month) and despite criticism of its underwhelming opening, is taking on the look of a new tradition that can be built upon in coming years.

"We have a long-term point of view here," Herring says.

>>Send digital images of your own holiday lighting projects to be part of the Bushnell Park projections to info@herringmediagroup.com.

Rink Information:

The Bushnell Park Skating Rink will have a ribbon-cutting ceremony Friday at 4 p.m. with a performance by the Hartford Public High School Choir. Public skating will be open after the ceremony until 6 p.m., when international champion skaters will perform until 7 p.m. At that time the ice will reopen for public skating.

Santa will visit with children and accept new, unwrapped gifts for Toys for Tots Friday from 5 to 7 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 2 to 5 p.m. at the Pump House Gallery. A champions skating show is scheduled each Friday and Saturday at 6 p.m. at the rink. The free public skating (including free skate rentals) continues through Jan. 6.

>>Hours: Mondays to Thursdays, 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. and 4 to 8 p.m.; Fridays, 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., 4 to 6 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m; Saturdays 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m.; and Sundays, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.

>>School vacation week: Dec. 27 to 30, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. each day.

>>Holiday hours: Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.; First Night on Dec. 31, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. and 7 p.m. to 1 a.m., with a champions skating show at 6 p.m.; New Year's Day 11 a.m. to 9 p.m..

>>The Bushnell Park Carousel also will be open Fridays and Saturdays from 2 to 8 p.m., with another visit from Santa there Dec. 17 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. with refreshments, face painting and balloons.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
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