2020 was a challenging year for many people. Calls for social distancing and shelter-in-place orders kept many in-doors for the better part of the year. As life adjusted to this new reality, the limited opportunities for recreation and fun had a negative impact on people’s outlook and emotions. With the year winding down and the promise of a better 2021, the Atlanta Downtown Improvement District (ADID) wanted to inspire the people living and working downtown by bolstering their yearly PRISM: Winter Lights event at Woodruff Park. To accomplish this, the ADID’s Art & Entertainment District teamed up with Digital Projection and Display Devices to create a public display unlike anything the city has seen before.
Woodruff Park, located in the very heart of Atlanta, is considered by many who live there to be their backyard. Surrounded by skyscrapers, parking decks and local businesses, it is a rare green space shared by members of the community from all walks of life. The park has also hosted the PRISM: Winter Lights event for the past two years. After an unprecedented and challenging 2021, however, the ADID expanded the event to add some extra excitement in the downtown neighborhood. Featuring a water theme complete with light-based landmark sculptures, the ADID also utilized the famous International Peace Fountain; a long, curved, flowing waterfall at the northern end of the park.
Creating Beacons of Art
Curated by the team of public art designers at Dashboard, this particular display had the unique challenge of literally blending light with water. Executive director and co-founder of Dashboard, Beth Malone, said, “When we designed PRISM, we created beacons of light that would make people want to immediately stop and come inside the park for a closer look. We wanted to create that same effect on this magnificent fountain.” To achieve this, Dashboard brought in New Media and Video Artist Kris Pilcher.
Specializing in video and projection mapping, the Atlanta-based artist was immediately taken with the project. “I’ve had my eye on the fountain for a long time and was entranced with the prospect of using the waterfall as a medium,” Pilcher said. “This piece blends photons and H20 molecules – two vital components for life. With the way 2020 has been, anything that is a celebration of life is important.” For his content, Pilcher chose works from local artists. He animated the static art pieces and designed transitions to make them dynamic for this unique display.
Blending Water and Light Through Projection
To display this artwork on a continuously moving, low-lit fountain, the curators would need a powerfully bright display solution that could contend with the outdoor environment and frigid temperatures for the two-month duration of the program. Working together with Digital Projection, Display Devices constructed a projection tower complete with its own HVAC and processing hardware systems. The projection was powered by a fleet of eight high-performance M-Vision 21000 laser projectors. Producing a total of 168,000 lumens and flanked with architectural lighting to frame the color-rich projector spectrum, the 12.5 foot by 72 foot wide display is breathtaking.
A Seamless Collaboration
David Schmitt, director of sales and business development at Display Devices, explained the process. “After speaking with the ADID and the artists, we knew this location held a lot of significance for downtown, and that this display needed to be something that would make people excited to get outside in the neighborhood. So, we set out to make it as bright and colorful as possible. The M-Vision 21000’s balance of power and image quality made it a great fit for this project. Working with Digital Projection has been a truly seamless collaboration. Their customer-focused mindset matches ours perfectly and helped us make the most out of this unique solution.”
A Display That Resonates with People
When the display was unveiled on opening night, visitors were captivated by the extraordinary conjunction of water and light. The reaction from the public has been very well-received, with visitors stopping on their way through the park to admire the content and take pictures. Fredalyn M. Frasier, planning and urban design project director with the ADID explained, “We’re incredibly happy with how the piece resonates with people. It’s a safe way for the community to enjoy the work of local artists. Woodruff Park is one of my favorite places to be and it’s always been my dream to get people excited about seeing artwork in the places they call home. The waterfall display certainly does that and then some!”
The program also celebrated the New Year holiday with a collection of new content centered around a message of hope. Utilizing local artistry, Pilcher designed this new piece with a theme of perseverance. Having seen the display in every stage of its development, Pilcher said, “It’s been a monumental success – and a perfect exhibit for the current atmosphere. It brings people to the park, where they can enjoy the outdoors and their city, all while keeping socially distant. There have even been a few music videos shot in front of the display!”
“I’ve used Digital Projection in past projects, and I love their projectors,” Pilcher added. “They are some of the best that I have worked with and I’m eager to create more pieces like this in the future.”
The entire case study can be found here.