James Turrell Exhibition
Featured Course

Illumination: Lighting

Explore the profound and magical qualities of light. Through research and hands-on experimentation, students are introduced to numerous aspects of illumination, from the practical and conceptual, to the creative and technical. Illumination integrates hands-on demonstrations, lectures and guest presentations, along with student-driven research and projects, to explore light and materials at a range of scales, including history, theory, psychology and lighting strategies for a variety of spaces.

Instructors Penny Herscovitch & Daniel Gottlieb, who answered jointly.

ArtCenter: How would you describe this class? 
This class is designed as a springboard to integrate lighting into your creative work. We encourage you to learn about light through investigation, experimentation, and trial and error. In Illumination, Environmental Design students, along with students from every major at ArtCenter, explore lighting together. We encourage all students to think about light in new ways in their own professional pursuits and creative passions.

AC: What inspired the direction you took with the curriculum for this class? 
We aim to make this class inspiring, purposeful — and fun! We've been lucky to have guest Zoom lectures by incredibly accomplished alumni, including Stuart Fingerhut, design director at Production Club; Matt Heinzler, associate designer at Vitamotus; as well as internationally renowned professionals from Signify and Rhizomatiks.

Field Trip to James Turrell Exhibition

This class guides us to explore our unique illumination visions through inspiring lectures, hands-on experiments, and fun field trips. I loved the flowing creativity and constant encouragement.

Jez SunProduct Design

AC: What are some of the most important concepts and ideas you hope students take away from the experience/classwork? 
We see light as a material and medium to be wielded in design just as tangibly and powerfully as wood, concrete or steel. The goal of this class is to explore and appreciate the qualities of light, while imparting the practical skills necessary to control and manipulate light in a meaningful way, at a range of scales – from LEDs used in products, installations and lit models, to natural and electric environmental lighting. Students gain an understanding of basic electronics and optical principles, lighting technologies, sustainability and alternative energy sources, and an overview of the history of light in art and spatial design.

AC: What are the assignments and materials that challenge students to break new ground creatively?
The term begins with experimental installations influenced by the light and artists, where students work on teams to create immersive light effects inspired by the magic of light phenomena in nature. Students then integrate LED circuits into small-scale objects to imagine how light can intuitively bring emotive moments to our everyday rituals. Finally, Illumination concludes with a research presentation/demonstration centered around each student’s curiosities, and a final project where students can apply illumination principles to support a current design studio or expand on a past project. 

AC: What inspired the direction you took with the curriculum for this class? 
In order to facilitate hands-on experimentation, especially while learning remotely, we curated Illumination Kits. The kits include different types of LEDs, conductive thread for soft circuits, magnetic switches and tilt sensors, as well as materials to manipulate light, such as colorful gels, diffuser sheets, and iridescent “dichroic” film. We're always amazed by the creative applications that students come up with using this kit as a jumping off point. 

AC: What were some of the most interesting/surprising ways the students responded to the challenges and assignments? 
During quarantine, students created their own “Light in Space” installations at home. Students came up with incredibly resourceful ways to translate the emotional impact of light in nature into installations that completely transformed their own spaces. With a single plate from the kitchen, Cindy Shon (Illustration) projected enthralling bioluminescent sea creatures that appeared to swim across the wall of her room. Arin Zarifian (Entertainment Design) slowly poured sugar-water over back-lit iridescent film, to project the mesmerizing colors of the aurora borealis onto his garage door. At a time when we were all isolated in our own homes, these resourceful illumination installations were so powerful, transporting and even healing.

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