Snowmass Luminescence brings interactive art to Fanny Hill
Three-month light festival launches Dec. 18 with immersive, COVID-safe experiences
“It is beautiful and it’s beguiling. It is attractive,” says Anthony Rowe, an artist with the creative collective Squidsoup. “And we hope it makes you forget about this COVID crap that’s going on at the moment — if for a moment.”
That “it” is “Submergence,” an interactive art installation that will illuminate Snowmass Village come Dec. 18. Some 256 strands of light and more than 5,300 individual orbs will immerse viewers in a radiant glow that “lifts the spirit,” Rowe said.
It’s also part of Snowmass Luminescence, a three-month-long activation that promises to bring light, color and warmth to the mountain from sunset to 9 p.m. daily, Dec. 18 through Feb. 28.
“Submergence” will accompany “The Tunnel,” a series of six light installations that will form an illuminated walkway on Fanny Hill between Base Village and Snowmass Mall for the duration of the activation. Each installation will offer an entirely new experience: archways of light, kaleidoscope effects and optical illusions are among the interactive designs.
Another installation, “Prismatica” by Creos and Raw Design, will pop up for the month of February. Nearly a half-dozen artists from the Roaring Fork Valley will also contribute light displays on the Anderson Ranch Arts Center campus.
Snowmass Luminescence is a marquee event for the town this year; most of the typical winter festivities have been canceled or modified due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We’ve taken the unique nature of what we’re doing this winter and used it to our advantage with this program, said Deric Gunshor, Aspen Skiing Company’s director of event development.
“People are going to be able to ski during the day obviously, but at night, there’s a lot less gathering activities that are available for people to do that they would normally do in the winter,” Gunshor said. “This is an opportunity for people to get outside and experience something different.”
Skico took the lead on the production elements and the logistics of the experience; the activation is a collaboration with Snowmass Tourism to expand last year’s two-day Snowmass Light Festival into this year’s season-long, socially-distanced and masked-up experience.
Other partners include Anderson Ranch, Base Village developers East West Partners, and the Romero Group, which manages most of the properties in the Snowmass Mall.
The installations allow plenty of space to abide by COVID-19 restrictions; “The Tunnel,” located on the Wood Road side of Fanny Hill, provides an on-snow, open-air alternative to the SkyCab Gondola (commonly called “The Skittles”) that connects Base Village to the Snowmass Mall.
But this year’s installations offer far more than a new walking path or an item to put on the calendar, artists say. There’s a communal element to the experience that’s been hard to find in a year defined by distance and installation — a collective sense of wonder, perhaps.
Squidsoup specializes in this type of experience, Rowe said. Submergence can make those who enter feel as if they’ve entered the infinite and infinitesimal world of an exploded screen, an “additional layer on top of the reality that we inhabit,” he said.
The result is something to the effect of a “a shared, digital-physical experience,” Rowe noted; Squidsoup encourages viewers to bring their experience into the digital realm with the hashtag #squidie on social media.
There are naturalistic elements, too. Liam Birtles, another Squidsoup member behind the Submergence installation, said the installation has a “sunset” effect that “changes the way you look at each other.” Dynamic strands of light, each about 10-15 feet long, will span nearly 400 square feet on Fanny Hill to create a “flowing, evolving volume of color and light.”
“Quite often in day-to-day life, it’s quite uncomfortable to stare at someone for a long time,” Birtles said. “It frees people to examine each other in this space…. you can look, because the lights are changing all around.”
Rowe and Birtles also said that light has therapeutic effects — a principle that also drives “Prismatica,” the installation that joins Snowmass Luminescence in February.
RAW Design, an architecture firm, originated the idea as a submission for the “Luminothérapie” festival in Montreal. Multicolored ice-like prisms, each more than six feet high, reflect passerby and create an ambient glow in the space they occupy; anyone can walk up and spin the prisms to create new hues and reflections.
“We really liked this idea of having users create their own environment and feel like they have a role in shaping public space,” said Pierre-Alexandre Le Lay, an architect with RAW Design. “For participants to be able to use the installation and sort of experiment with color was very beneficial to them.”
The experience is a hit with all ages, Le Lay said; RAW Design has been “overwhelmed” with the positive reactions.
“They can’t seem to get enough of spinning and playing around,” Le Lay said.
Creos, an agency that produces public art installations, coordinates the logistics to bring “Prismatica” to life in different settings; the prisms have appeared in environments warm and cold alike. Snowmass is a particularly apt location for the installation, Le Lay said, because snow adds another almost-reflective surface.
“It’s most interesting in a winter environment,” Le Lay said. “With a white canvas, it does create even more color dispersion.”
That principle will enhance the experience of “Submergence,” too, Squidsoup’s Liam Birtles said.
“One of the things that really quite excites me is the idea that we’re going to put this volume of light in snowy landscape,” Birtles said. “The light is going to bleed across the landscape.”
The ultimate effect is one of total immersion: an encounter with art in which “you lose yourself and you forget where you are, and you’re just sort of wowed by the space around you,” Rowe noted.
This is not, however, meant to be an isolating experience: you may lose yourself, but you won’t lose a sense of those who share the experience with you.
“It frees people to look at each other properly and spend time just being in a space together,” Birtles said. “It’s often an opportunity to go with family, and people you love.”
Snowmass Luminescence lights up the mountain from sunset to 9 p.m. daily, Dec. 18 through Feb. 28, at locations throughout Snowmass Village. For more information, visit gosnowmass.com/activity/snowmass-luminescence/.
Ready to see Snowmass Luminescence for yourself? Deric Gunshor has a few words of advice.
Choose the right footwear. This is an on-snow experience, so plan accordingly: opt for warm, grippy shoes or boots over high heels or slippery soles. It will be all the more enjoyable if you’re comfortable from the get-go.
Leave the skis behind. Just because the light installations are on Fanny Hill doesn’t mean you can (or should) send it through the tunnel. Respect the signage and save those tricks and turns for the rest of the mountain.
Take your time. Yes, the installation creates a convenient walkway between the Snowmass Mall and Base Village. But Snowmass Luminescence is much more than a connection between Point A and Point B. “Each different aspect is totally unique and has its own character,” Gunshor said. “Enjoy it and (don’t) necessarily rush through it.”
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