SALT LAKE CITY — Heading into its ILLUMINATE Light Art + Creative Technology Festival, the Utah Arts Alliance knew it needed to pivot from past years.
Usually held over a single weekend, the annual event is an exhibition of locally made art — each piece incorporating technology and lights into a striking visual display.
This year, the alliance needed a space where pieces of sculptural art could be shown in a controlled environment, where households could be separated, preventing the spread of COVID-19.
Its solution was opening on Nov. 6 of Lumen Land, a 17,000-square-foot outdoor space at 633 W 100 South in downtown Salt Lake City where the art exhibits can be enjoyed safely.
“It’s kind of like Candy Land, but you’re walking around different art pieces,” said Sue Raia, director of Lumen Land.
“Each kind of area has been built by a different artist or collective of artists and is intended for you to take pictures around as well as just see what downtown Salt Lake and what some of our local artists are still doing. And we need art right now more than ever, and so that’s how Lumen Land was pretty much born.”
There are over a dozen pieces of art on display in Lumen Land, including one — a giant, light-up disco ball — that stands three stories high.
The artists are all local, and the alliance collaborated with Element 11, a nonprofit whose own festival was shut down this year due to COVID-19, to coordinate with artists and bring their work out for exhibition.
Ted Crenshaw is one of these artists. During the day, he works in semiconductor fabrication, which gave him the idea for “The Spectral Zephyr,” his contribution to Lumen Land.
It took him over five years to dream up and build the piece of art, which consists of multicolored tiles that ripple and twirl in the wind.
“(It’s) a kinetic wind piece,” he said. “There’s about 11,400 pieces, and as the wind moves each tile, it catches the light and defracts it at a different color for every angle of the tile. So, essentially, you’re just trying to see the wind in color.”
The result is ever-changing walls of color, which are especially vivid at night.
“It’s so impressive; it takes my breath away,” Raia said. “It is really beautiful to see.”
Crenshaw was grateful for the opportunity to display his work this year, when many other exhibitions and shows have been shut down, including the regional Burning Man Event, put on by Element 11.
“It means a lot to me to be able to share it with my family and friends that aren’t able to go do big events,” he said. “Anyone can come see this, and it’s up all month.”
Lumen Land also lends itself well to social distancing, said Kim Angeli, ILLUMINATE Festival director.
“This is a 17,000-square-foot space, with a one-way walk-through labyrinth so people won’t be crossing back and forth,” Angeli said. “The design of it was very thoughtfully laid out for those purposes, so that we can keep the households separate.”
Guests are strongly encouraged to buy tickets to Lumen Land online before showing up, and time slots are offered every half an hour, with the first showing at 6 p.m. and the last at 9:30 p.m.
Thirty people are allowed inside per time slot, with groups divided by household and then kept separate.
Along with social distancing, masks are required per Salt Lake County and, more recently, state guidelines.
Angeli said Gov. Gary Herbert’s announcement of a statewide mask mandate Sunday, along with other safety restrictions, have not affected the event, as the event’s pre-planned precautions accounted for all new guidelines.
“If anything, it will help us with the messaging that everyone needs to wear a mask when they’re in a public space with us or wherever they’re going,” she said. “So in some ways it is helpful.”
Lumen Land’s design is similar to that of Dreamscapes, another art exhibit in Salt Lake City, which has successfully contained COVID-19 transmission so far.
Organizers believe it is a good sign for the newly opened exhibit.
“For several months, Dreamscapes has been under COVID restrictions with no reported cases in our venue,” Angeli said. “We weren’t rebuilding the system from ground zero. We had pre-tried processes in place from Dreamscapes that we were able to adapt over to Lumen Land, and I think in many ways, with (Lumen Land) being outdoors, it is to our advantage.”
This year’s broader festival also includes nighttime projection-mapped light shows on buildings across Salt Lake City, including the Union Pacific Depot at The Gateway.
“We’re just creating just really cool art that takes people outside of their daily routine, and it’s not sitting in front of a screen,” Raia said. “(It’s) just meant for people to be transported to a new world, turn on some lights in these dark days.”
Lumen Land will be open Thursdays through Sundays through Nov. 29.