During my time as a fellow at the National Repertory Orchestra, I checked out the Breckenridge Creative Arts, or BreckCreate, WAVE festival in Breckenridge, Colorado. The WAVE festival is one of the many artistic events in the town, and this one featured a variety of art installations. Some installations were collaborations with French artists, and others involved local music. All the installations had a common theme: sound, light, or water.
This post features one round of exploration on a Friday night, so everything covered is a sampling of the installations that WAVE had to offer.
Floating Brass Quintet
The Floating Brass Quintet was one of the music performances available at WAVE. Each musician was a fellow from the National Repertory Orchestra (NRO), a prestigious summer festival series that takes place in Breckenridge each summer. The NRO’s season officially started in the first week of June, but the five fellows arrived a few days early to prepare their WAVE performances as part of the NRO’s Community Engagement series. The group performed four times every day, and their last performance would lead into the start of the Light Matters installation.
The quintet was called Floating Brass because the group moved and performed in various locations of downtown Breckenridge. Pieces performed include “When I’m Sixty-Four” by the Beatles and “Take Five” by Dave Brubeck. Audience members were free to either pass by or stop and listen to the group. A sizable crowd always hung around the brass group, and kids and adults alike were engaged by the pieces performed.
Iceburg is a light and sound installation by ATOMIC3 + APPAREIL Architecture in collaboration with Jean-Sébastien Côté and Philippe Jean. Viewers experienced this installation by walking through the lighted connected chambers while listening to the atmospheric sounds of water running, ice melting, and icebergs crashing.
The installation was placed at Blue River Plaza, which experiences a lot of pedestrian traffic every day. Anyone and everyone were free to walk through the installation, and it was likely the highest visited installation of the weekend.
While the installation was accessible and functional during the day, it was best experienced at nighttime when viewers could better see the lights. Crowds gazed in awe of the installation on the inside as the lights shifted color and the atmospheric sounds set a romantic mood and temporary ended conversations.
CLOUD is an interactive art installation by Caitland r.c. Brown and Wayne Garrett. The piece was shaped like a raincloud and a tree at the same time: a tall, metal canister makes up the trunk & branches, and lightbulbs make up the leaves/cloud. Many of the lightbulbs were connected to chain light switches that stretch to the bottom of the platform, which gave it the illusion of rain. If a viewer were to stand on the platform and pull down on one of the chains, one or several light blubs would switch on or off as a result.
This installation created simultaneous engagement opportunities for people of all ages, but it was particularly delightful for families: parents could easily participate or stand back and watch while their kids enjoyed playing with all of the chain switches for minutes at a time. The platform was constantly crowded with those interacting with the light switches, and it was whimsical, charming, and much more fun than expected.
Loop is an interactive music and light installation by Oilvier Girouard, Jonathan Villeneuve and Ottoblix in collaboration with Générique Design, Jérôme Roy, and Thomas Ouellet Fredericks. The installation was comprised of several electronic loops. Each loop is rimmed by light strips, and pictures appear on the outer layer of the loop. These pictures move and flash to create a moving picture, but the picture can only be moved by a lever. This lever is controlled by two audience members inside of the loop, and they move the lever back and forth in order to make the picture move.
This installation was another crowd favorite, enjoyed by both kids and adults alike. Lines formed around the loops for those who wanted a turn in moving the pictures. While this exhibit was unique and engaging I wondered about challenges it may pose for audience members with accessibility needs and those who are sensitive to flashing lights.
Will You Like Me?
Intermittent Positive Reinforcement (IPR) by Scott Young was the first artwork of its kind as a social-media-activated light display. The art itself was a simple neon light structure of a face. The face’s default lights were set to frown, but if an audience member were to go on Instagram, follow the IPR page, and then like the photo posted, the neon face would temporarily change into a smile.
This light installation was charming and unexpectedly fun. Kids asked parents if they could borrow their cell phones so that they could Like the installation and make the face smile. If a user happened to be without a smart phone or Instagram account, however, they were stuck and could not make the neon face smile. On the other hand, this was a great introduction into social media-based audience interaction, and perhaps we can expect to see more of this interactive art in the future.
Through the Blue
Through the Blue was a solo musical concert performed by cellist Russick Smith. Essentially, Smith appeared on a patch of grass in the middle of the Blue River with his cello, a small speaker, and a pedalboard. The pieces he performed were of his own eclectic style; he used loop pedals to establish a beat & harmony, and he performed a melody on top of these loops. Atmospheric lights were placed around the island and to the sides of the river to enhance the background.
By the time we visited, Smith had drawn a substantial crowd around the river on both sides. Kids climbed down the rock steps to the side to get a closer look. The audience was visibly impressed by Smith’s entrancing performance. Of course, audience members constantly whispered one question to each other: exactly how did he get his cello on the island?
Photo: A close look at cellist Russick Smith with his pedalboard and cello. Smith performing on his island in the middle of Blue River, with an audience gathering on the stone steps behind him. Photo Credit: Alyssa Wroblewski
Light Matters by Act Lighting Design is a media installation. Several projectors were installed on the front lawn close to the Blue River, and a large net hung above them while facing the sky. The instant the Floating Brass performed their last concert of the evening and the night sky grew dark enough, mood music with deep bass began to play, and the projections turned on to reveal northern light art within the net.
This installation seemed to be a crowd-pleaser as the holographic lights lit up the sky. The lights paired beautifully with the nighttime atmosphere and deep, dark music. The premise, light art, and music were simple, but it was large, easily seen, and did a wonderful job in combining sound and “waves” of light.
Tension, also by Scott Young, was a neon-light installation inside Breckenridge’s Gallery at Old Masonic Hall. This installation featured strings of red/orange neon-lights hanging in all sorts of ways from the ceiling. Visitors were free to walk around and through the strings of lights.
This exhibit was highly visited and open to everyone. The building was highly accessible, elevators were available for use, and the exhibit simple and safe to explore. Some of the rooms did get crowded, but users were encouraged to explore and take pictures as long as they did not touch the lights. Users took advantage of this and took many group pictures or selfies around the neon lights, myself included. Users noticed that the room was a little warmer because of the lights, but perhaps the message of warmth and fragility may have been lost among the photo opportunities.
After visiting, I certainly see why the WAVE festival is a favorite yearly tradition in Breckenridge. Each year bring new installations so that there is always something new to explore. This festival can be enjoyed by everyone, whether you are a tourist or local, a kid or adult, a family or a group of friends hanging out. I highly recommend attending the festival if you’re in the area, and I look forward to seeing what new technological exhibits WAVE will bring.