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USNWC Turns the “Lights” Back Onby Tim Miner on October 14, 2020
US National Whitewater Center (USNWC) is switching the Lights back on.
Lights, the ground-breaking immersive light installation that transformed the USNWC walking trails in 2019, will be open after dark (weather permitting) from mid-November to mid-February 2021. The fee to experience multi-sensory installation is covered by daily parking fee at the Center – $6. Those with annual parking passes may enter Lights for free. The Center’s annual ice skating rink will open in tandem with the exhibit.
If you saw Lights last year, you’ll experience flashes of the familiar, interwoven with new locations, colors and features. Last year, Charlotte artist, Meredith Connelly, and her team created more than 250 original artistic elements. This year, they’re adding more than 250 more.
“I always start by walking the trail and gaining inspiration from what’s here on site,” said Connelly. “I’m really excited about a new color palette … a warmer environment this year with the colors. And, all of that is based on things I collected on the trail and smudged into my sketchbook. The idea for me is playing with the concept of growth over time.”
Bringing Lights to Life
The process of fabricating the various elements used to snake through paths, spring out of the ground or scale-up tree trunks is no easy feat. To bring Lights to life, Meredith assembled 7 artists from a wide array of creative disciplines. They’re in the workshop, preparing to add their work to the USNWC landscape.
Meredith loves the collaborative process. It drives her. Much of her work is solitary. Lights is an opportunity to collaborate with other creatives, share ideas and learn from one another before inviting the public to take a stroll through work in an unexpected environment.
“We’re showing the power of public art being put into unexpected places,” Meredith said.
Bringing Art and Nature Together
A center devoted to whitewater and outdoor sports – canoeing, kayaking, rafting, mountain biking and more — may seem a strange place for an art installation like Lights. But, Jesse Hyde, brand director at USNWC, said it’s well in line with their purpose.
“[Lights] touches on the central mission of the USNWC,” Jesse said. “We exist to engage the community. Public art is another compelling way to do that. In the broader sense, if we can play a part in how Charlotte can get outside, be engaged and interact with these types of works, we’re happy to do it.”
With safety precautions forcing so many seasonal events to postpone or go viral, Jesse feels that Lights has taken on a new significance this year.
“It’s tailor-made to the community that exists right now,” said Jesse. “Get outside, walk in the woods and experience something illuminating while remaining mindful of COVID-19 and social distancing.”
The Lights Team
Here are the artists working with Meredith Connelly to create the 260 new elements being added to Lights:
🔹Nadia Meadows: Installation and sculpture artist
🔹Asa Stroem: Fiber and textile artist from Sweden
🔹Jill Kowalski: Fabricator and health coach
🔹Jennifer Creekbaum: Fiber and textile artist
🔹Donna Early: Musician and songwriter
🔹Evelyn Tsai: Illustrator and graphic designer
🔹Autumn Payne: Ceramicist and photographer
🔹Nada Esmaeel: UNC Charlotte Project Intern – media artist & illustrator
🔹Ireland Andrews: High School Intern, a senior interested in pursuing architecture/set design