Neighborhood lights: Organizers talk about Midtown's DLECTRICITY

Months ago, when we first became aware of a contemporary art festival that aimed to light up the Midtown night sky in the fall, the one-word response around the Model D office was this: win. Or make that two words: win-win. One for the artists and one for everybody else, including the braintrust behind it and the art consumers who will benefit most by the shimmery spectacle.

DLECTRICITY features 35 local, national and international artists who will shine various kinds of lights on historic Midtown architecture Oct. 5-6. That's this Friday and Saturday.

Artists from Japan, Iceland, Berlin, New York, Los Angeles, Seattle and, of course the hottest (or coolest, take your pick) art town in the world right now, Detroit, are featured. They include: Evan Roth, NBNY, Jacco Olivier, Tabaimo, Sarah Rara, Yvette Mattern, Biba Bell, Marcos Zotes, Graem Whyte, Melanie Manos, RogueHAA, D MET Design and more.

Locations include the Detroit Institute of Arts, College for Creative Studies, MOCAD, Detroit Public Library, the Rackham Building, Michigan Science Center and Sugar Hill Arts District.

Managing editor Walter Wasacz asked organizers Marc Schwartz, Marsha Miro and Sue Mosey to weigh in on the genesis of the festival, the value of staging it in Detroit and the direct benefits of doing it in Midtown.

Give us some background about DLECTRICITY. When was the idea hatched and when did planning begin for the first one? Who are your partners?

Marc Schwartz: Six years ago, 11 members representing a cross-section of the contemporary arts community came together with the goal of increasing awareness of the great art and artists we have in Metro Detroit. We established Art Detroit Now, which lists and links over 90 art venues in 21 cities and 5 counties in our area. We also established Detroit Gallery Week, which will celebrate its 5th Edition from October 5 -13. But, we always wanted to do something over the top that would attract thousands of people to one event. For a bunch of reasons, combining light and art just seemed perfect for this moment in time in Detroit. About 18 months ago, Art Detroit Now and Midtown Detroit, Inc. dug in, in earnest, to fund, curate and execute DLECTRICITY. It has been an amazing partnership, a shining example of how collaboration can work at its best.

Has there ever been an art festival of light-based work on this scale in Detroit before?

Marc Schwartz: This is the first time that a festival of Art + Light has been held in Detroit. With DLECTRICITY, we will join other major cities like Montreal, Paris and New York, Rome and Madrid that already have established festivals. In fact, Paris and New York will also be holding their events the same weekend, and we are jointly marketing our festivals as "Nuit Blanche," White Night events. We've also engaged the producers of the New York event to do a 3-D projection across from MOCAD, on the corner of Garfield and Woodward.

How many project proposals did you receive?

Marsha Miro: We had proposals from over 225 artists, architects and designers from Paris, Montreal, New York, Chicago and Los Angeles, and many were from this area. Our goal was to mix things up. All the selected proposals are of great quality and captivating content. We wanted a variety and projects, ranging from 3D mapping of literary images on the Detroit Public Library to a giant painting of a whale that wiggles on the front of the Michigan Science Center to a village of tents for children on Warren and Woodward. 

From programming standpoint, give us a few suggested can't miss events on the schedule.

Marc Schwartz: There are three natural gathering points for the event. At the DIA, where there will be shadow puppet performances by Tom Carey and free film presentations inside, and five major installations on the grounds, including a piece by Tabaimo, an artist from Japan. At the WSU park at Warren and Woodward, we will have a particular focus on family-oriented projects. And at the Sugar Hill Arts District, where MOCAD and the N'Namdi Center are located, we will have a dance party, food trucks, drinks and other light and performance projects. And don't miss going by The Max Fisher Music Center, where there will be a simulcast projected outside while a performance of Cirque de la Symphonie is performed inside. Pretty amazing.

What is the value to Detroit in staging a festival of this kind? 

Marsha Miro: DLECTRICITY is important for many reasons. It raises the city's profile in the world, making it clear that we are in a place that takes contemporary culture seriously. The area population will see terrific contemporary art in an approachable form. This is going to be fun stuff to participate in. The Midtown area is a focus for cultural events in the entire region. DLECTRICITY will add immeasurably to this and we hope we will get over 20,000 people to see this festival of lights. 

Why Midtown?

Sue Mosey: Midtown Detroit’s amazing cultural and architectural assets have always been core to the continued growth and development of the neighborhood, and events like DLECTRICITY capture everyone's imagination for what's possible. Midtown is home to some pretty remarkable events with Noel Night celebrating 40 years this December, and the debut of Art X in 2011. With some of the country’s premier cultural institutions in the neighborhood, it makes Midtown the perfect spot to celebrate creativity and now DLECTRICITY. 

Walter Wasacz is Model D's moden art-loving managing editor. 

Pictures from top to bottom:

"StereoNegative (A Tribute to Tony Smith)" - artists Tsz Yan Ng with Helena Kang and Justin Kollar

"Knowledge is Power" - artists Gabe Hall, Daniel Land, Audra Kubat and Gabe Rice

"Dawn Of Man" - artist Space Monkey Detroit

Read more articles by Walter Wasacz.

Walter Wasacz is a writer and the former managing editor of Model D. You can find more of his writings here.
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