More than models 'illuminate' Wearable Art

Posted: Sunday, February 13, 2011

Roughly 230 models, artists, wardrobe aides, hair dressers, and staff give the runway at this weekend’s Wearable Art fashion show human light bulbs, but the environment in which they pulse, glow, blink, radiate, and shine is a result of a technical crew that will spend most of the show behind the scenes and in the dark.

Klas Stolpe / KLAS STOLPE
Klas Stolpe / KLAS STOLPE

“We have always told our artists not to use lighted elements in their pieces because we never could light the environment properly,” Wearable Arts artistic director Patricia Hull said. “I thought why not take that problem and create an environment where it is OK to have lighted elements. Our job as the creative team was to create the environment where artists could do their artwork and be seen in it.”

That environment began in March 2010 when Hull came up with the idea of “Illumination” as the theme for the event. Meetings with design teams began in August and September.

As point person for coordinating that vision, Hull assembled a team to help make that vision a reality, and to build a show that is greater than the sum of its parts.

Front of the House Manager Kari Groven sends the volunteers into the right direction, does logistics, data entry, programming, and coordinates the artists, letting Hull attend to the responsibility of looking at all the artist’s choices and comparing them against the show’s theme, vision and creative environment.

The 84 works of art to be presented was a new problem for the committee as they had never had to vet a work before. Since the audience expects new and different pieces, Hull put a number of younger artists into a show within a show entitled The Next Generation, a compressed version of Wearable Art.

“We are creating a place for the art to go,” Hull said. “We have really shaken things up.”

Former Juneau resident Calvin Anderson has worked past Wearable Arts, Perseverance Theater, and Lyrical Opera productions as well as lighting up shows for music acts including Salt-n-Pepa, Lyle Lovett, Feist and Regina Spektor. He has a lighting design degree from Point Parks College in Pennsylvania and is currently in graduate school at the University of Connecticut. Anderson flew in Friday morning to set up his four months of lighting plans and talents.

“The theme illuminate is looking at how light plays with costumes, and using light to really make a stronger impact on the show, to make things crazier than usual,” Anderson said. “For a lighting guy it is super exciting. It is like somebody telling you here is everything you hoped for and wished for in a show, it is all about you, go!”

The architects for this fantasy world are Bauer Clifton Interiors owners Jeremy Bauer and Jason Clifton, known for local projects including Sand Piper Caf┐, Zen, Jaded, Canton House and many home remodels.

They began brainstorming directly after the first Wearable Art planning meetings on ways to incorporate the theme into the overall aesthetic of the performance.

“We decided to design these elements that would be a study on how light affects an object,” said Bauer, who has an architectural engineering degree from Kansas State University. “How it actually illuminates it, connects to it and can be stopped by it, how it passes through it. We designed these multiple shapes and designs of objects to become this kind of blank canvas for the lighting designer to show his light art work on.”

Bauer had to consider the translucency of the material. Perforations in opaque panels allow light in and translucent drapes overhead allowing light to penetrate softly in a careful balance, while random design element patterns bring character to some pieces.

Bauer knows patrons will come to see the models but hopes they enjoy the atmosphere as well and the fact architecture can be both fixed and moving.

“No matter what type of event you are having, the atmosphere adds such a great deal with the overall atmosphere no matter what the outcome of the project,” Bauer said. “It’s all about the environment here. A well designed environment really touches all the senses, here it is definitely sight but in some applications it can be smell, and sounds are affected to.”

Sean Boily has been involved with Wearable Arts for seven years and brought many of his Northwind Architect employees, including partners James Bibb, Gerald Gotschall, Dave Hurley, and Evelyn Rousso to help the set-up process. He has a degree in architecture from Oregon State. Locally, his firm has been involved with the Downtown Transportation Center, Gastineau Elementary School, and the Glacier Valley Elementary School renovation.

“My mission is to make sure everything comes together and works,” Boily said. “We have some really great design people involved so our role ends up being code compliance.”

Boily’s team was also involved in brainstorming the concepts, but most of their effort comes with “delivery” day when the various elements are put together. Many attending may not realize as they watch the event their seat has been given expert consideration. Centennial Hall has the ability to be broken up into three separate rooms, so code compliance requirements exist for each.

“This is like our Super Bowl,” he said. “It’s a lot of fun. I think that people who help get this event off the ground and going are pretty well rewarded by just being a part of the process.”

The event raises money for the Juneau Arts and Humanities Council.

Today’s show will open with the Mayor’s Awards for the Arts presented by Mayor Bruce Botelho. Award winners are: Artist, Della Cheney; Arts in Education, MK MacNaughton; Business Leadership in the Arts; Elgee Rehfeld Mertz; Innovative Application of the Arts, Aaron Elmore, Katie Jensen and Theatre in the Rough; Lifetime Achievement in the Arts, Susan Burke; Patron of the Arts, Sharon Gaiptman, Deborah Smith, and Missouri Smyth; and Volunteer for the Arts, Daniel Beason.

“I think that when the artists are smiling, the audience is smiling, and we are smiling the event is a success,” Hull said. “Last year the event got out at about 10:15 at night and there will still people at Centennial Hall past midnight mulling about, taking pictures and talking to the artists.”

• Contact Klas Stolpe at 523-2263 or

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