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Lighting Design 2.0

June 14, 2010


Today is the start of something new.

After years of study and practice, building a design portfolio, and making friends and industry connections as a theatrical lighting designer, I am about to start everything all over again —  this time in the field of architectural lighting design.

Why? The big news is that I was recently accepted to the MFA Lighting Design program at the Parsons New School of Design to study architectural lighting in one of the biggest and brightest lighting laboratories in the world: New York City!

Architectural lighting has been an area that has interested me for some time, ever since I spent a summer as a systems integration intern lighting up casinos and hotels with Production Resource Group (PRG) in Las Vegas, NV.  The installations of light in that city are unparalleled in scope anywhere else that I’ve ever been. My favorite is the Fountains of Bellagio.  Most of the nights I spent in Las Vegas were spent watching the fountain shows for hours on end.  The choreography of light, water, movement, and music is simply mesmerizing to me.  It is so simple, yet so beautiful.  It doesn’t need anything more, nor anything less.  It is a perfect union of elements that stops anyone on the adjacent sidewalk (or even across the street), making them pause, reflect and wonder.  As someone with a background in theatre, it is a lighting designer’s dream project — it is pure theatricality — but, unlike theatrical designs, it is a permanent fixture in the urban landscape of Las Vegas.  How incredible is that?

The permanence of such a project is probably what interests me the most about this field.  Everything I have designed up until this point in my career has been temporary: designed, set up, displayed, and taken down.  What would it mean if I could design something and see it day after day for years, or decades, on end?  I’m interested to find out.

This is only one inspiration of many for my decision to study architectural lighting.  My main motivation is that I simply love to learn.  I have a natural curiosity for learning new information and skills, and that curiosity drives me in most of what I do, which is why I am thoroughly excited for the possibility of learning about something I know almost zero about.

For those concerned that I am somehow betraying or leaving behind the theatre world, not to worry.  I am first and foremost a theatre person, and I never plan to leave theatre behind me for good.  There is nothing that can compare with the feeling of being part of a live performance.  Especially in today’s communications- and technology-driven society, I actually think theatre is what keeps me sane.  The outcome I am currently hoping for at the end of this experience is to blend these two fields into a career that satisfies all of my interests and needs, such as designing community arts and performance venues, with maybe a few theatrical designs sprinkled in here and there.  Who knows what opportunities I will find? A career like that doesn’t sound too far off in New York.  I can’t wait to see what Parsons has in store for me!

I hope to use this blog to document and reflect on my experiences in New York, so I invite anyone with an interest in following what I do to check back often!


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