Selective Focus: Friends of the Light

An animated projection project called Friends of the Light centers around visual art created by Emily Koch and Tara Austin. Their brush strokes were recorded, animated and enhanced by Daniel Benoit to be displayed at Bayfront Festival Park’s ice rink. The projection display, which skaters can view as they access the warming shelter for free, was organized with the support of the Duluth Public Arts Commission, and Duluth’s City Parks and Recreation Department. Below is an interview with Benoit, as well as photos of the process and first night of the event.

How did this project start? Who are your collaborators?

I saw Tara Austin’s show at the Joseph Nease Gallery and saw her rosemaling on acrylic work, which got me to reconnect with my desire to work with non-digital artists. [After seeing] her work, I thought that it was the perfect medium to work with. Painter Emily Koch, Tara, and I met for lunch and we decided to try this idea out.

What do you think attendees can expect to see or experience at this event?

They will see the warming house lit with 10,000 lumens of laser projections showing the work come alive using the actual brush strokes of the artists. There will be ice skating, a bonfire and free ice skate rentals.

What are some of the concepts and inspiration behind the visual projections and art found at Friends of the Light?

Part of it is rooted in missing working with In the Heart of the Beast Puppet Theatre in Minneapolis where my modern mediums would be connected with traditional forms of art. And again, seeing Tara work was a driving force from the beginning and the mind hive of my two collaborators.

What have you enjoyed the most about working on this project?

Learning about Tara and Emily’s process. I had to go frame-by-frame on the recordings of their paintings which gave me such intimate insight into their process, style and personality they put into their work.

Do you feel that the outdoor setting is important to the atmosphere you’re trying to cultivate?

It’s the middle of winter, I’ve got to get myself out of the house somehow. Ha. I enjoy the challenge of working with mother nature and spending time with friends outdoors doing things. Even better if it’s art.

What else would you like to share about Friends of the Light?

I would invite any artist to come check it to see how projection can be utilized and accessible to all forms of art.

The animated projections are on display again tonight, Saturday, Feb.. 11, from 5 to 8 p.m. at Bayfront Festival Park’s ice rink. The warming shelter is available with limited free rental skates. Attendees can also cozy up beside a fire while viewing the art outside.

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Whenever I am sipping cool water under this sign, I know I am going to have a good time.