During a trip to France last December, Kim Cook watched buildings crumble before her eyes, and then reassemble. What she witnessed was a trick of art and illusion born partly from a digital process called “image mapping” at the Fete des Lumieres, an annual illumination festival that lights up Lyon, France each winter.

“Image mapping is different than just projecting an image onto a building,” says Cook, the president and CEO of the Arts Council of New Orleans, who is bringing a sliver of the Fête des Lumieres to New Orleans. “The artists did a 3D model of the building to create an optical illusion as if the building is moving or changing. It’s kind of miraculous.”

Cook was in Lyon to interview many of the festivals’ light-art studios, the festival’s producers, and lighting tech people. In the end Cook and her board decided that La Maison Production art studio would create a special light art presentation called LUNA Fete (LUNA: Light Up NOLA Arts), that would bathe the entirety of New Orleans’s Gallier Hall in a shifting, theatrical tech-art light show twice a night for one week, beginning November 29.

While much of the light art that Kim Cook saw in France was highly conceptual and often abstract, she chose La Maison (which has won the competition at Fete des Lumieres illumination festival two years straight) to create a simpler, populist entry point to the new art form. “The light piece they designed for Gallier Hall is top notch, but more on the literal and accessible end of this kind of work,” she says. “It is accessible – which was very intentional.”

Artist renderings of LUNA Fete

Images courtesy of La Maison Production Company

Fete de la Lumieres in Lyon

Images courtesy of Fete de la Lumieres Facebook

The light show is a narrative crafted especially for families, and all of the images engulfing the huge historic building will be specific to New Orleans. “It’s a story that begins on the bayou and builds and ends at a Mardi Gras celebration,” explains Cook, “with a flood and a fire and some other stuff in between, that’s all about the rebuilding and resilience of New Orleans over time.”

But this free light show is not just a pretty token. For Cook and the Arts Council of New Orleans, Luna Fete exists as much to fuel New Orleans’ economic growth; the event was strategically placed on the calendar to capitalize on the influx of Bayou Classic tourists.

“I am all about economic development for the state of Louisiana, it’s in my blood.” says Will French, the LUNA Fete 2014 committee chair, co-founder and president of Film Production Capital, LLC, and a member of Arts Council board of directors. “Lyon didn’t do it for tourism, initially. It’s just a great expression of public art. But [LUNA Fete is also] a way to make New Orleans a premiere holiday season destination, so as to provide enhanced economic support for our hotels and restaurants. It will be great for helping our retailers get their products out into the marketplace at the holidays.”

It's a story that begins on the bayou and builds and ends at a Mardi Gras celebration, with a flood and a fire and some other stuff in between, that's all about the rebuilding and resilience of New Orleans over time. Kim Cook, Arts Council of New Orleans

Designed to tie together City Park’s annual Celebration in the Oaks, the lighting of Canal Street and the Roosevelt Hotel’s holiday showcase in a citywide holiday illumination theme, LUNA Fete 2014 is the first of a five-year initiative by the Arts Council of New Orleans to employ the city’s most beloved buildings as canvases for light installations annually, leading up to New Orleans 2018 Tri-Centennial. In 2015, Portuguese artist studio Ocubo, which specializes in interactive, participatory installations, will project another huge light piece onto the Bell School in the Fauborg-Treme neighborhood.

“By the time we get to the Tricentennial I am hoping we are covering areas all over the city in these big light installations,” says French.
This year LUNA Fete features no New Orleans artists, but next year the Contemporary Art Center (CAC) has commissioned a light project at their site. In the meantime, the Arts Council is working on prepping New Orleans artists to make this particular kind of light art. “We had 20 New Orleans artists in June at an Arts Council workshop,” says Cook, “The focal points were lumens and light pollution and 3D modeling and motion graphics.”

Cook points out that this really is a new form of art, and not one for which the gear can be purchased cheaply at your local art store. “New Orleans arts community has limited access to this kind of gear,” says Cook, who moved to New Orleans to run the Arts Council in 2013. “After working on projects that merged art and technology in Silicon Valley and Philadelphia, I came to New Orleans and saw that there were no Fab Labs, no Maker Spaces, no Hacktories, no Tech Shops… We are not seeing a lot of crossover with the digital gear between the tech and art communities. We hope [getting techies interested in this art form] benefits the larger arts community.”

Cook also has more populist goals: “There is a problem with lighting in the city of New Orleans,” she says. “We hope LUNA Fete over the next few years starts a conversation about a master plan for urban lighting by New Orleans’s 2018 tricentennial, put together with artisan designers. We hope to activate a conversation on civil level about lighting the city, period.”

The week-long LUNA Fete illumination mini-festival kicks off with the Arts Market of New Orleans holiday weekend Nov 29 and 30 in Palmer Park and continues with the Annual Community Arts Awards reception on Dec 3, plus twice-nightly free showings of LUNA Fete, and a cooperative marketing effort with local arts organizations promoting the LPO’s Cirque de Noel performance, Cidra Bell at the CAC, and other arts activities over the course of the week.

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The Arts Council of New Orleans

The Arts Council of New Orleans is a private, non-profit organization designated as the City’s official arts agency. The Arts Council serves as one of eight regional distributing agencies for state arts funds and administers available municipal arts grants and the Percent For Art program for the City of New Orleans. The Arts Council works in partnership with the City of New Orleans, community groups, local, state, and national governmental agencies, and other nonprofit arts organizations to meet the arts and cultural needs of the New Orleans community through a diversity of initiatives and services.


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As a nexus for the arts in New Orleans, NOMA is committed to preserving, interpreting, and enriching its collections and renowned sculpture garden; offering innovative experiences for learning and interpretation; and uniting, inspiring, and engaging diverse communities and cultures.

The Historic New Orleans Collection

The Historic New Orleans Collection (THNOC) is a museum, research center, and publisher dedicated to preserving the history and culture of New Orleans and the Gulf South. Its holdings comprise more than one million items from more than three centuries, documenting moments both major and minor. Its four exhibition spaces–the Williams Gallery, the Louisiana History Galleries, the Boyd Cruise Gallery, and the Laura Simon Nelson Galleries for Louisiana Art–faithfully depict the multicultural stories of the region, from permanent displays exploring the evolution of Louisiana to rotating exhibitions showcasing history and fine art.

Southern Food

The Southern Food and Beverage Museum is a nonprofit living history organization dedicated to the discovery, understanding and celebration of the food, drink and the related culture of the South. While based in New Orleans, the Museum examines and celebrates all the cultures that have come together through the centuries to create the South’s unique culinary heritage. The Museum is also home to the collections of the Museum of the American Cocktail, the Galerie d’Absinthe, and a demonstration kitchen.

Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities

The Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing educational opportunities to all Louisianans.

The Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities’ mission is to provide all Louisianans with access to and an appreciation of their own rich, shared and diverse historical, literary and cultural heritage through grant-supported outreach programs, family literacy and adult reading initiatives, teacher professional development institutes, publications, film and radio documentaries, museum exhibitions, cultural tourism, public lectures, library projects, and other public humanities programming.



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