Lighting Up Salt Lake City: The Illuminate Festival

The+public+interacts+with+the+art+of+the+%22Iluminate+Festival%22%2C+Gateway+Mall%2C+Salt+Lake+City%2C+UT+on+Saturday%2C+Nov.+9%2C+2019.+%28Photo+by+Mark+Draper+%7C+The+Daily+Utah+Chronicle%29
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Lighting Up Salt Lake City: The Illuminate Festival

The public interacts with the art of the

The public interacts with the art of the "Iluminate Festival", Gateway Mall, Salt Lake City, UT on Saturday, Nov. 9, 2019. (Photo by Mark Draper | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

The public interacts with the art of the "Iluminate Festival", Gateway Mall, Salt Lake City, UT on Saturday, Nov. 9, 2019. (Photo by Mark Draper | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

The public interacts with the art of the "Iluminate Festival", Gateway Mall, Salt Lake City, UT on Saturday, Nov. 9, 2019. (Photo by Mark Draper | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Ray Gill

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From the center of The Gateway, an array of vibrant lights emanated. It was hard to miss the sound of a live band and the brightly colored ’60s-esque dancing silhouettes on the clocktower. On Friday and Saturday night, Nov. 8 and 9, the Utah Arts Alliance celebrated its third annual Illuminate Festival. People of all ages were invited to participate in the free event. More than 50 local and out-of-state artists gathered to display their light up creations at the Illuminate Festival in Salt Lake City. The attraction, unlike most other arts festivals, invited artists and creators to display their light and technology-based creations.

 

The public interacts with the art of the “Iluminate Festival”, Gateway Mall, Salt Lake City, UT on Saturday, Nov. 9, 2019. (Photo by Mark Draper | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

Colossal Creatures

The streets of The Gateway held a variety of pieces, some that were beautiful or interesting and others that brought up feelings more difficult to articulate. After strolling through the winter-themed walkways with illuminated forest animals and people dancing about, I happened upon an enormous praying mantis with a woman sitting in a cradle beneath its belly. Michelle Estrada, from The Colossal Collective, was controlling the movements of the daunting, color-changing Barry Romantis with levers from below.

Estrada said her group likes to inspire the sort of childlike wonder that people get when they see the puppets for the first time. Aside from Barry, there was another puppet ⁠— Penelopecock ⁠— a two-headed peacock made of bungee balls, PVC pipe, duct tape and LED strips. “There’s no shortage of cool things to build a puppet. We sometimes alternate between taking a real creature and try to make it life sized or blow up a tiny thing to see what it’s like big,” said Sam Johnson, the owner of the non-profit Colossal Collective, based out of Boise, Idaho. “We like to see the satisfaction from people on these things we worked really hard to build.” All of the puppets were operated and able to walk about as if they were real with a crew of at least five people. The group attracts volunteers, both those who help out for a short while and those who never leave.

 

The public interacts with the art of the “Iluminate Festival”, Gateway Mall, Salt Lake City, UT on Saturday, Nov. 9, 2019. (Photo by Mark Draper | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

A Crowded Lounge

More unique light pieces were held inside the Light Lounge. Each of the art pieces inside was enticing, but it was hard to take the time to appreciate them all due to how jam-packed the room was. One piece that stirred a particularly curious line of people was a large, low-hanging dodecahedron. The various mirrors throughout the inside of the shape reflected the numerous strands of lights, which made for a nice selfie. Josh Epperson, the artist of the “Dude-Decahedron,” enjoys working with LED lights and wanted to make something large and fun for the festival. The art piece reminded me of a romanticized version of fun house mirrors within, since it would slightly warp your face and the lights.

At the back of the room was a misleading dead-end room with a handwritten “Enter” sign. Inside the room were two pictures made by Jason Martin — one of Kratos from the “God of War” game series and the other the iconic symbol from “The Punisher” — along with a box with a large button on a table. When the button was depressed, the simple pictures came to life with bold lights of red and yellow that shone through while the ceiling lights in the room shut off.   

 

The public interacts with the art of the “Iluminate Festival”, Gateway Mall, Salt Lake City, UT on Saturday, Nov. 9, 2019. (Photo by Mark Draper | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

Musical Fruit

Inside the Urban Arts Gallery were the usual gallery pieces except for an uncanny centerpiece — “The Strawberry Ambient Set.” Each fruit was hooked up to a synthesizer and used as a mini controller. When a person held on to two fruit controllers, it would close a circuit and produce a note. Depending on where on the fruit it was held, the type of fruit and the pressure and the angle of the grip, it would create different pitches and lengths of a note.

The two DJs, Brodyizm and Handz, together known as Fossil Foolz, didn’t know they’d be working with such a variety of fruit until Saturday’s opening. They had the strawberries prepared to go, but when somebody in the gallery had the idea to bring the DJs a bag of mixed fruit, their display became all the better. “Most people don’t know that ambient music is devoid of any discernible beat,” said DJ Handz. “The fruit makes it interactive.” Kids and adults alike became captivated by the odd, squishy experience.    

The Illuminate Festival was unlike any other art exhibit I’ve attended. All of the art pieces discussed are those that stood out. However, they are only a fraction of what was at the event. There was something for almost anyone to enjoy. I’m glad I had the opportunity to take part in the festival and speak with some of the artists on their wild and luminous creations, and I cannot wait to see what comes during next year’s festival. 

 

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