Illuminus Boston turns Downtown Crossing into an art gallery

By Meaghan T’Ao
BU News Service

BOSTON — On the nights of Nov. 2 and 3, Illuminus Boston, a contemporary arts festival, was held at Downtown Crossing around Washington Street. The festival included 23 distinct projects created by and for the Boston community.

The event featured a variety of interactive displays and performances. It included video projections and installations that focused on light and sound and turned the city sidewalk into a gallery of the arts.

“Local artists auditioned and they took almost 250 proposals for different projects. [These] were curated and this is what we have: the best of the projects that were submitted,” said Mike Testa, the Pedestrian Zone and Special Events Operations Manager at the Downtown Boston Improvement District.

According to Testa, over 30,000 people visited the festival over two nights last year. “We’re hoping to do better than that,” he said.

The installation “Digital Playground” drew a curious crowd of onlookers. Using projection mapping, local production studio Black Math created a landscape on the side of a building that allowed visitors to release balls that interacted with the architectural elements.

“We really just wanted to create an experience that people could have fun with, play around with, take a picture in front of,” said James Coine, who created the installation.

On the opposite side of the street, visitors to the festival could try their hand at choreographing a spontaneous dance sequence with “Play” by Stephanie Houten, an interactive audiovisual installation controlled by buttons.

Just steps away from “Play,” a line stretched out across the street from a small metal gate, beyond which mist and swirling beams of light were visible. This was the “Antipode Tunnel,” a collaboration between dancer Ellen Oliver and visual concept creator Vanessa Hafenbradl. The tunnel was made with video projection and fog, silhouetting a dancer against the shifting beams of light and shadow.

“It’s really cool; I didn’t really know what to expect,” said Arti Gandhi, a festival visitor. “I would love to see more of this sort of thing around Boston.”

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