Inaugural river display holds light for future

Tuesday, April 29
NORTH ADAMS — Two days after a crowd of about 3,000 showed up to view light sculptures suspended above the bed of the Hoosic River, city officials and organizers of the Hoosic River Lights project are thinking of ways to expand it for next year.

"It was an interesting trial run to show what it could look like," said Mayor John Barrett III. "I think a lot of people thought it was good even though it was done very quickly."

Ralph Brill, a local artist who conceived the idea and spent two years getting permission from the Army Corps of Engineers, then had about two months to put it all together.

The result was the installation of four pieces of illumination art conceived and built by four artists/groups in the floodway of the Hoosic east from The Porches Inn and past the Holden Street bridge.

Students at McCann Technical High School helped by welding a variety of pieces together, and a number of other local volunteers assisted in the actual installations.

About 10 Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute graduate students and artists Sarah Michael of Los Angeles, Emily Conrad and Jeffrey Galusha of New York City, and Rikayo Horimizu and Inhe Lee of Tokyo designed the four pieces over the river.

Billed to start at dusk and end at 11 p.m., "hundreds of people showed up early, waiting for the lights to come on, like at a fireworks show," Brill said. "And there was a good cross section of folks. The streets were packed."

Everything worked out, he said.

"We had good weather, a good crowd and good art," Brill said. "And now people are talking about filling the whole river with light."

He said he already has fielded calls from light artists in other countries who hope to have an opportunity to be featured in the next Hoosic River Lights event. There are a few other light art events in other parts of the world, but having one in a river is unique and offers unique challenges to the artist, which is drawing some attention, he said.

"But it has to be done right," Brill added. "We will have time to do some things better, like seeking more corporate sponsors, planning for more than one night and a longer stretch of the river. We could draw as many as 10,000 people."

The dates of the event will be evaluated, along with what kinds of food vendors and other kinds of street activities to offer. Adding roving musicians is an idea floating through the discussions, as is the hope that downtown businesses can take part in some way.

"I think there is a good possibility they can build upon this," Barrett said. "It was a big draw and brought a lot of people into the downtown and into the restaurants. So it's got tremendous possibilities."

The synchronicity of having a light arts show in the river adjacent to Mass MoCA did not escape the notice of museum officials.

"It was a good fit," said Brittany Bishop, Mass MoCA marketing coordinator. "We didn't have a lot to do with it, but we did support their effort."

She said she was part of the viewing crowd.

Mass MoCA would support it again, she said, but to what extent would depend on what was needed.


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