One thing’s for certain about Let There Be Light: Inspiration is getting younger all the time.
The 17th annual one-night, light-centered art installation is set for 6 to 9 p.m. Friday at Piedmont Virginia Community College, outdoors on the grounds around the V. Earl Dickinson Building.
The event fills winter’s deepest darkness with the thrill and hope of mesmerizing lights, said Fenella Belle. who chairs Piedmont’s visual and performing arts. And some of the brightest lights are being supplied this time by young artists in town.
Boys & Girls Club members are teaming up with artist Sigrid Eilertson to create tiny worlds and a circuit board city while putting art and STEM principles to work.
Students from The Peabody School have been working with artist Chris Haske on “The Music Machine.”
“They’re always wildly ambitious, and so creative,” Belle said. “It’s an interactive music creation experience. As you arrange the shapes, you create notes, and all of that is projected onto a wall as colorful animation.”
Students from Free Union Country School are making their first appearance in Let There Be Light, joining forces with artist Rose Guterbock, who leads their after-school art club. “They’ve created a very large white cardinal bird out of cardboard, and small drawings of cardinals will be projected onto it.” The students are, in effect, creating a bird out of birds.
More departments and groups at Piedmont are taking part this year. The ceramics class made lanterns for a collaborative project. Photography students took photos of the welding students surrounded by sparks in the darkness. The art club created a lamp based on drawings created on a lunchroom table.
“One of my goals is to get more Piedmont students involved with it,” Belle said. “People never have any idea what to expect, and even people at Piedmont aren’t always familiar with it. A lot of people assume it’s about holiday lights.”
Two dance contributions call on visitors to be part of the action.
During three performances, Penny Chang and Deep Water Moves will dance in front of a camera that creates an echo of their movements on a wall. Visitors can step in front of the camera themselves to join the creation process. In “Candeo,” Emily Wright and Cumulus will engage visitors who don’t think of themselves as dancers, encouraging them to add their own movements to the whole.
Many of the art pieces call upon visitors to provide some of the magic. In “Airing Out the Dream Quilt,” Richmond-based artist Sam Christian creates a lighted pavilion in which visitors can write down their own hopes and dreams to be added to a dream quilt.
“Every year, it’s fascinating to see how people take this ide and go with it,” Belle said.
As always, there will be lighted forms emerging from the ground, hovering in the trees overhear and floating on the lake.
One popular attraction in recent years, the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts’ Artmobile, will not be there this time as a result of technical difficulties. Belle said it will return next year.
When you’re ready to pause and warm up, there will be free hot chocolate and warm apple cider, and two food trucks will be on hand.
In keeping with Let There Be Light tradition, visitors are invited to dress as “enlightened beings.” Whether that means glowing earrings or a blinking holiday sweater is totally up to you.
Glow-in-the-dark bracelets play an important role in one of this year’s new features — the People’s Choice Award. Nineteen stakes will be placed, each with the name of an installation.
“When they’re ready to vote, they get a glow-in-the-dark bracelet,” Belle said. “You put your glow-in-the-dark bracelet on the stake of the work you are voting for. The accumulation of all these bracelets becomes a light piece. It lets the audience be active in a way.”
Art is being created during one perennially popular fixture, “RAKU!!” Potters Nancy Ross and Tom Clarkson will join members of the PVCC ceramic club at an outdoor kiln firing of clay vessels. Belle recalled watching a young visitor gasp in amazement when Ross used a strand of horsehair to embellish a vessel from the kiln, and the memory reminded her of the meaning she finds in the event.
“No matter how jaded you are, there will be something that sparks wonder. That’s all we’re really trying to do,” Belle said. “To remember what it is like to be seeing something for the first time. To be mystified. To be delighted.
“What’s the light inside of us? How do we let it out? How do we let our lights connect? Come out, and shine, and connect.”
Admission is free. Wear comfortable, sturdy shoes, layer for the weather, and don’t forget to bring a flashlight. The rain date is set for 6 to 9 p.m. Saturday. To get all the particulars, and a closer look at the map of installations, go to cvillelight.org.