LET THERE BE LIGHTS
By Mitch Hurst
PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF ANDREW OGILVY
By Mitch Hurst
PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF ANDREW OGILVY
There’s no better way to welcome in the holiday season than taking a trip to Chicago Botanic Garden (CBG) and strolling through the trail to view its annual holiday tradition, Lightscape.
Now in its fifth year, Lightscape opens on November 10 and features light installations from artists around the globe, including three new works from artistic companies located in the UK and France. The show is produced in partnership with Sony Music and creatively produced by Culture Creative.
Among the new installations are Lillies, from UK artist Jigantics, which illuminates five-foot lilies that float elegantly on water; Nighlights, from French artist TILT, which features delicate, lamp-shaped lights of ambient colors that extend nearly 19 feet into the air; and Sea of Light, from the UK’s ITHACA, which presents thousands of individually controlled balls of light that will make the garden’s Evening Island sparkle and dance. The three new installations will be accompanied by popular works from past years, including the Winter Cathedral.
“Each year Lightscape provides new and captivating ways to engage audiences with immersive experiences in the natural world that delight the entire family,” said Jodi Zombolo, Associate Vice President, Visitor Events and Programs at the CBG. “Tickets went on sale in June and most weekend dates in late November and early December are nearly sold out, so we encourage everyone to make plans now to attend this not-to-miss event.”
Zombolo says the inspiration for Lightscape each year comes from the UK-based Culture Creative. Its team brings the vision for what the path will look like. The company has an array of artists it works with from around the world and often thinks years in advance when shaping CBG’s Lightscape events. This year’s edition will have 22 installations.
“Creative Culture looks for the right place in the garden for each installation, and our goal each year is for 80 percent of the installations on the trail to be new, so you don’t see the same ones when you come each year,” says Zombolo. “It will always be different.”
Salina Murray, who works with ITHACA, which is based in Brighton and also Chicago, says the artistic group is constantly in search of unique spaces where it can place its installations.
“ITHACA is a company of light artists and sound designers, composers, editors, and experimenters. Our work spans music, video remix, and light and sound installations,” Murray says. “We are interested in unusual locations, site-specific work, and the opportunities presented by remixing light and sound in creative new ways, indoors and out.”
She says Sea of Light was particularly inspired by the Garden’s Evening Island, which will be included along the path for Lightscape. The installation includes more than 5,000 lights that will create a “kaleidoscope of colors.”
“We chose Chicago as the location for our only non-UK office, so we’re always delighted to get the chance to create artwork there,” she says. “We’ve worked with Lightscape and Chicago Botanic Garden before, and it’s an absolutely beautiful venue and we love the challenges of working in such a wonderfully managed natural environment, whatever the weather.”
TILT’s Francois Fouilhe says the company’s roots are in theater, and their work at TILT is driven by wanting to create something bigger.
“We worked as light managers in theaters, for musicians and street theater 20 years ago,” Fouilhe says. “There was a lack of striking pieces using light as an artistic medium and we thought we’d start creating our own lights, with the idea of installing them outdoors as light artworks.”
TILT has three pieces in this year’s Lightscape, including Nightlights. Fouilhe says the foundation for their works is nature, which provides “an endless and most beautiful source of inspiration.” Nightlights are a fantasy version of our everyday lights, he says, imagined in giant versions to transform their impact and use. He says TILT is thrilled to be back for Lightscape this year.
“It will be our second time in Chicago, and we can’t be more excited. It’s such a vibrant and diverse city and the beautiful Chicago Botanic Garden has such a beautiful background for our pieces,” he says. “We can’t wait to be part of this event.”
In addition to the installations, Lightscape will feature four locations where guests can stop and enjoy hot drinks, food (including s’mores), and signature cocktails. The fourth location will provide more substantial food and tables where individuals and families can eat dinner, including tacos, Italian beef sandwiches, and pizza.
Zombolo says at a normal pace the trail, which is 1.3 miles long and fully accessible, will take about 40 minutes to walk. Lightscape sells out every year and continues to be one of the more popular holiday traditions on the North Shore.
“It’s very different from other light shows in the area. These are artistic pieces, and they are in a beautiful setting, and they show off the Garden in the winter,” Zombolo says. “You can enjoy both.”
For more information and to purchase tickets, visit chicagobotanic.org/lightscape.