InLight: Beam light into the dumb darkness!

Everyone’s favorite lit-up art show is back for the eighth time. It’s two nights! It’s at the VMFA! Could things get more exciting??

Original — November 10, 2015

Photo by Terry Brown

InLight is several things:

  1. A juried art show
  2. A curated art exhibit
  3. A family-friendly spectacle 
  4. A cool thing to do on a date
  5. The first thing that’s come along to make you embrace the fact that the days are so stupidly short right now.

InLight can only happen at night, so welcome, darkness! 

1708 Gallery’s big light-driven art event is one of Richmond’s most exciting annual happenings, and maybe one day we’ll see it turn into a big huge national draw, like the Folk Festival. Imagine! Art fans coming from all over the world to see exhibits exploring what light can do all over the city! 

For now, I guess we’ll have to be satisfied that this year, it’s expanded from one night to two, due to a partnership with VMFA that’s been in the works for a couple of years. Last year, Monroe Park provided the setting. Other past sites include the Canal Walk, the Riverfront, Shockoe Slip, and Broad Street. All City-owned spaces, and all with much community support. 

But now…now! There will be no more “Oh no, I have to miss it because it is only one night and I have to go to this other thing!” And no “What will I do about parking? It is in scary downtown!” At InLight, VMFA fans can now feed their insatiable art addiction by strolling around the museum’s outdoor space (and a romp around the inside, too, if they so desire) on a hopefully mild Friday or Saturday evening. And loyal InLight fans get to combine their experience with what the VMFA has to offer, and enjoy plentiful parking as well. Twice.

InLight isn’t an inexpensive stunt to pull off, and two nights of it just about doubles the cost. Not only do the equipment rentals and production costs multiply, but extra security is needed to protect the installations after hours (and during the boring daytime). “All the organizations in the city are lucky to benefit from a generous pool of supporters, and some of these key supporters were really, really, really excited about this opportunity [to work with the VMFA], and they worked really hard to help us get new supporters and motivate our regular supporters.”” says Emily Smith, 1708 Gallery’s director, who is hard to pin down during the week or two before the Big Event. In other words now is not the time to wax poetic about how one day InLight will be mega-huge and take over the city–nay, the world! She’s got enough to do.

The gallery raised an additional $7,000 with an indiegogo campaign, but committed to the two-night model even if the campaign failed to raise funds. It closed before they hit their goal, though $7,000 is still a nice chunk of change. If you’d still like to help out–particularly once you see the InLight majesty itself!–you’re always welcome to make an online donation.

This year, InLight proudly presents 17 juried artists and seven curated artists (i.e. they’re just presenting gorgeous, thought-provoking, and maybe interactive art without the pressure of being judged).

One of the most thrilling aspects for both spectator, gallery head honcho, and even artists alike is that no one will know just how these exhibits will go until the switch is thrown on the first night. To make some guesses, Emily Smith can call upon her past experiences with InLight, which was born in 2008 for 1708’s 30th birthday. But as far as this year’s specific installations go…we’ll all have to wait and see. “That’s just the challenge of InLight,” says Emily. “It’s all in the abstract until it happens.”

She advises us to keep an eye out for the following, though, which have especially piqued her interest.

Eva Rocha

A current MFA student at VCU and recently recognized with the Pollak Award for Emerging Artist, Rocha turned heads with her candidacy show last spring in which she projected images of herself in containers. “There’s this idea of gender politics, oppression, and subjugation,” says Emily. “And for InLight, she’s taking that idea and expanding it, exploring how the art world might play into that.” Films of contained women will be projected in large scale into large shipping crates, into which spectators will look down from the museum’s second floor. 

Matt Lively and Tim Harper

The crew at 1708 learned quickly that visitors really enjoy interactive installations. “When the audience is given an opportunity to be part of [an installation] and make something, they really thrive on that.” Matt Lively and Tim Harper’s kinetic sculpture lets people use pedals to create movement and shadow play. 

Mark Strandquist

You may remember Mark and his Performing Statistics exhibit as part of this summer’s 10 x 10 series at 1708–it gave incarcerated youth a chance to tell their own stories via art. And, just as importantly, it gave young artists outside of the justice system a chance to learn more about the challenges facing those on the inside. “There have been so many iterations of that project since then,” says Emily. “They’ve installed a series of banners via a team workshop at Art 180 as well as created a jail cell within the gallery…it’s a much bigger platform that supports the launch of an even bigger platform, their tour of the state.” InLight’s Performing Statistics installation will draw more attention to the rights of those within the criminal justice system and the need for reform.

Zack Kurth-Nelson

The original proposal for Zack Kurth-Nelson’s projections, which involve maps on top of sculptural pieces, seemed large within a gallery setting, but from experience, Emily Smith knew he could go a lot bigger for InLight, given the right technology. Her team stepped in to help him quite literally expand his vision, which now involves a three-part projection on familiar components of the VMFA’s architecture, making the columns appear to recede and advance. “It’s a very familiar image on top of familiar architecture, but it’s done in an unexpected way,” Emily says. “He brings to life the iconic face of the VMFA.”

Ander Mikalson and John Dombroski

With the Confederate Memorial Chapel as their canvas, these two artists will amplify the sounds of the visitors themselves and turn that into an environment that “inspires InLight visitors to pay attention to the building and reflect on its history,” says Emily Smith. Earlier this year, the VMFA did not renew the chapel’s lease with the Sons of Confederate Veterans, who are making a lot of public comments about the installation’s level of appropriateness in the chapel. I will say this, SCV: it would never occur to me to set foot in that space if it weren’t for a sweet art exhibit 1.

Jacco Olivier

Emily Smith remembered Olivier’s exhibition from several years ago in Blacksburg. “I’ve always had his name in the back of my thoughts for something in a public space,” she says of his striking animated projections. “They’re animated landscape paintings with subtle movements across them, but incorporating them into the sculpture garden reflects it all back to painting, which connects the whole thing to the museum.”

— ∮∮∮ —

InLight will be lighting up the VMFA’s grounds on Friday, November 13th and Saturday, November 14th from 7:00 PM to 10:00 PM at 200 N. Boulevard. And it’s free! Learn more online!

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Susan Howson

Susan Howson is managing editor for this very website. She writes THE BEST bios.

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