September 18, 2010
A seductively lit, high-end SoHo lighting showroom. Live music by a cellist and pianist on the balcony. Wine and cheese as far as the eye can see. An impromptu hip-hop shadow-dance performance piece. Hundreds of neatly-attired New York City lighting professionals. And the newest and youngest industry member in the room: me.
The Designer’s Lighting Forum of New York season-opening event this past Wednesday was my first formal introduction to the lighting scene in the city, and it was certainly one of the most surreal experiences I have ever had.
Why surreal? Well, as a new arrival to New York City and a new student three weeks into the graduate lighting design program at Parsons New School for Design, my mind was spinning as I walked into the room. I had suddenly fallen into an alternate universe where those high-profile New York parties that you hear and read about actually do exist.
I should probably preface my reactions with the fact that I am of a theatrical lighting background, principally from the Boston, MA theatre scene. Needless to say, there is nothing in my experience that even remotely compared to the DLFNY event. It was obvious, from the minute I entered the room, that this industry, in this city, was on a whole other level.
Part of the trepidation and awe I felt when I entered the room I attribute to the fact that I was the only one of my 20 first-year classmates who planned ahead enough (our first big studio project was due the next morning) to attend. It was a bit intimidating to walk into a room like that alone, but it was pretty exhilarating at the same time. I was the lone representative of the current Parsons lighting program, which I was proud of.
Luckily, one of my lighting studio professors, Craig Bernecker, was standing at the front of the throng, which was a relief. It was nice to see a familiar face in the crowd, and he introduced me to a few other people in the first few minutes.
The majority of the people I ended up meeting almost immediately were recent Parsons lighting graduates, who I learned, thankfully, were all employed by lighting or architecture firms in the city. I did end up having a few quick conversations with some of the other guests, including the host of the party and the singer/entertainer, but I spent the majority of the time talking with the Parsons people. I wish I could have started up a few conversations with some of the other people in the room, but the intimidation factor was pretty high up there, especially since I really only knew one other person in the room of over a hundred people. The other fact that, aside from a handful of Parsons people, I was the youngest person in the room by at least 7-10 years didn’t help either. Sometimes I wish that people at these types of meet-and-greets would wear big signs over their heads that would say “I work at XYZ firm,” or “I have a theatre background too!”
At any rate, I was happy that I made it out to the event. I enjoyed myself, had a chance to mingle and chat, and learned a bit more about the industry in the process. I’m excited to attend other DLFNY and industry events in the future, too. I really would love to meet some working designers and hear about their experiences. If you are one of those people, or if you were at the event on Wednesday night, let me know! Leave a comment below, DM me on Twitter (@fischerlighting), or send me an e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Now, next order of business, updating my business cards for the next event…