Last year, LUNA Fête caught New Orleans a little off-guard as it transformed a landmark public building into a dazzling, though temporary, work of public art.
Using a light projection technique called projection mapping, LUNA Fête was an eight-minute art show that played out across the façade of Gallier Hall, all set to an instrumental score. It was a trippy tableau that delighted the crowds who packed Lafayette Square to take it in.
Now that New Orleans has had a taste of the experience, however, LUNA Fête organizers are hoping that this year’s edition will raise the stakes from a trippy delight to a mind-blowing experience.
The project, presented by the Arts Council of New Orleans, will begin Sunday and run all week at multiple locations. It brings a different projection theme to Lafayette Square, features a multimedia performance artist at the Contemporary Arts Center and partners both local and international artists with local schools for a more lasting impact.
LUNA stands for “Light Up NOLA Arts,” and Arts Council President Kim Cook said last year’s inaugural run was a way to encourage dialogue between a new breed of New Orleans residents and more entrenched locals and natives. She saw projection mapping as a way to relate to both the city’s love of art and architecture and its new embrace of technology, as seen in its growing film and tech industries.
“For young, newer residents coming to work in the tech sector and to be a part of New Orleans’ vibrant future, it would strike a chord with them,” Cook said. “We wanted to subliminally create an environment for old and new to come together and to possibly bridge the history and the future of New Orleans with these residents.
“Last year, we showed an example of what that can be like, that’s astonishing and fun and acceptable to lots of people. This year is about connectivity locally and showing many examples of what this kind of work looks like.”
What it will look like, especially around Lafayette Square, is potentially more interactive than just the “ooh-aah” reactions registered by the estimated 10,000 visitors who saw last year’s LUNA Fête at Gallier Hall. Because that building is currently under renovation and is now fronted by scaffolding, the organizers opted to bring the show to the square itself, with work by artist Jen Lewin.
Her installation, called “The Pool,” takes the form of a series of some 120 large circles, which themselves form a circle. They glow in alternating colors, and visitors can hop around and among these pads of light, which change color on contact.
In Central City, the Arts Council also will present a multimedia installation on the façade of the newly opened Ashé Power House Theater — the result of a collaboration among the international Portuguese arts collective OCUBO, New Orleans artist Terrance Osborne, the local private school St. Martin’s and Ashé’s Kuumba Institute.
In addition, the Contemporary Arts Center will host two multimedia performance projects by Los Angeles artist Miwa Matreyek, who performs in silhouette with projected animation in “Myth and Infrastructure” and “This World Made Itself.”
“Magic and transformation are what I’d like audiences to experience,” Matreyek said. “Because what I do falls between two distinct mediums, I often perform at film and theater festivals, and at science museums and planetariums. So to perform for a wider audience that’s not specific to a film festival or dance event or a science event will be pretty exciting for me. It’s not that different from a magic-lantern or shadow-puppet show.”
One way to appreciate the increased scale of this year’s LUNA Fête is its budget. While last year’s presentation cost $156,000 (without covering staff costs), this year’s budget is $262,000, including staff costs, Cook said.
City leaders are happy that the event is a fun way to keep holiday-season excitement going during an otherwise normally slow week after Thanksgiving and the Bayou Classic. Other cities have found success with similar projects, and Cook points to the New York Festival of Lights, with attendance of 60,000, and Boston’s Illuminus, which drew 10,000 people last year, as models.
Cook hopes LUNA Fête will continue to grow and become a major part of the city’s tricentennial celebration in 2018. She also sees it as a way of creating a dialogue about how technology can improve lighting in the city for safety purposes.
“The end game in terms of this project is that we have a way of celebrating what integrates art, architecture, technology and space that drives tourism and brings people to New Orleans,” Cook said. “Artists and residents of New Orleans can sort of amplify the beauty of the city while also enhancing its safety. That would be the true win that could come out of it.”
The event starts at 6 p.m. nightly at Lafayette Square, the Contemporary Arts Center, 900 Camp St., and Ashé Powerhouse Theater, 1731 Baronne St.