Playful chandelier lets visitors decide its colors


At Zook Hall these days, everyone is invited to play with the lights.

An interactive sculpture, the “Flux Chandelier,” is the latest addition to the newly renovated building, home to the LeBron James Family Foundation College of Education. It is composed of clustered, interactive LED tubes that hang at varying heights and can produce an ever-changing range of colors.

The public art installation, made possible through Ohio’s Percent for Art, includes a main chandelier that is suspended from the first floor atrium through a circular opening to the ground floor lobby of Zook Hall. Two smaller displays are located in the rear entry facing the Student Union and in a first-floor lounge area facing Buchtel Common.

Such interactive art seems a natural fit for Zook Hall, which is now a state-of-the-art facility with reconfigured spaces and the latest technology — all designed to match the classrooms where UA students will one day be teaching.

“I thought it would be really interesting to create a piece of interactive light art that would really connect the two floors and create this dynamic sort of center in the building,” says Jen Lewin, a new media artist who created the sculpture. By spreading the work throughout the building, she hopes to “bring people through and create a kind of connected art experience in the space.”

How ‘Percent for Art’ works

Ohio’s Percent for Art legislation was passed in 1990 to provide funds for “the acquisition, commissioning and installation of works of art for new or renovated public buildings with appropriations of more than $4 million.” The law provides that 1 percent of the total appropriation will be allocated for artwork.

That’s why her proposal for the space was chosen, says Kathy Signorino, the Percent for Art coordinator at the Ohio Arts Council.

Welcoming and fun

“The committee liked that the work could be enjoyed both inside and outside the building, as well as during the day and night,” notes Signorino. “They liked, too, that there are multiple engagement points for the work throughout the building.”

What causes the Flux Chandelier to change color? People.

“This piece will capture people as they’re moving underneath it,” explains Lewin, who is based in New York City. “As you are moving it will actually mirror the heights that are moving underneath it. If you stop, however, you can start to actually play with the piece. You can bounce light up and down and control it with your hands. Certain tubes are magical, you might say. By triggering them, you can create a completely different color palette.” 

Lewin’s light sculptures, which can be seen around the country, are as much about engineering as they are about art. The Flux Chandelier is no exception.

Intelligent design

“We can’t just buy an off-the-shelf product,” says Lewin. “I have a really talented and amazing team of engineers working with me. We create the tools to create the artwork, and we build the medium for the artwork.” 

The tubes are built to be intelligent on their own and the three different zones in the building are connected to each other wirelessly to communicate with each other. “There’s no single computer driving the project, which is unusual,” adds Lewin.

The artist has this hope as people discover the sculpture.

“It’s highly interactive. It’s playful. I’d like for them to have this kind of surprise moment to laugh, to stop, maybe from their rushed day, and actually have this kind of connected experience with the artwork,” notes Lewin. “To me, if that can happen, then it’s been a great success.”