Transformit Gorham, ME

Project Details

Fabric 1

Supplier: OTHER

Fabric 2

Supplier: Fisher Textiles

Engineer Name 1
Jonathan Crowe

Engineer Company 1

Design Name
Richard Woollacott and Sam Van Nostrand

Design Company
Hilferty & Associates, Athens, OH

Architect Company
Eley Guild Hardy Architects

Fabrication Company

Subcontractor Company
Monadnock Media and Communications Electronic Design (CED)

Graphics Company
Grand Image

Project Manager Name
Duane Landes

Project Manager Company
Exhibit Concepts

Installation Name
Luigi DiFazio, Joey Giordano, Cynthia Thompson, Jonathan Crowe, Ralph Duke

Installation Company

Please describe the project specifications

'This Little Light of Mine' is a soaring 40’ tall multi-media sculptural luminary that fills the central gallery of the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum. In addition to being a signature sculptural centerpiece, the structure incorporates 6,000 LED lights and an integrated audio system with lighting and musical content programmed to respond to the motion of visitors in the gallery.

What was the purpose of this project? What did the client request?

The galleries of the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum don’t shy away from difficult truths. The museum’s exhibits also bring forward stories of hope, courage, and action—stories of individuals who took a stand for good and made a difference. To unify the visitor’s journey through the museum around these beacons of hope and the knowledge that every person has the capacity to change the world for better, the museum’s exhibit designer, Hilferty & Associates of Athens, Ohio, designed the galleries to encircle a soaring, light-filled, central space and a stunning multi-media sculptural luminary of their design, 'This Little Light of Mine.'

What is unique or complex about the project?

Suspended in the center of the museum in a dramatic fifty-foot tall circular gallery, 'This Little Light of Mine' is illuminated from within by 6,000 LED lights that were installed by Communications Electronic Design (CED) of Louisville, Kentucky. Wrapped in a "Shattered Glass" holographic nylon skin, the sculpture sparkles with a light show that dances through its ribbons, while songs of the Civil Rights movement emanate from speakers hidden within.

As museum visitors enter and leave the central gallery, 'This Little Light of Mine' responds in kind. When the central gallery is quiet, the sculpture is quiet, the lights are soft and their motion is calm. But when someone enters the gallery, the sculpture comes to life, slowly. To begin, the solo voice of a young girl singing the song "This Little Light of Mine" drifts through the air. As more people enter the gallery, more voices join in singing, culminating in a rousing gospel choir filling the heights of the central atrium. The lights, too, respond to the motions of the people in the room below, moving in waves through the ribbons of the sculpture in a cadence reflective of the activity in the gallery. This innovative responsive program of the luminary was developed by Monadnock Media of Hatfield, Massachusetts.

Our design sensibilities, technical expertise, and 30+ years of experience creating with fabric enabled all the components envisioned for this piece to be unified within this stunning sculptural light. To begin with, a tension fabric structure was uniquely suited to this project. Tension fabric design made fabrication of the sculpture affordable and possible within the engineering and load specifications of the building. It also provided the visual texture sought by the designers while enabling the integration of sophisticated LED lighting and audio components within the piece itself.

Our contributions to the design process also made it possible to fabricate and install the sculpture within the requirements of a complex construction schedule. Our refinements included changing the ribbon design from singular blades to multiple pieces and the addition of an overhead canopy to hide the rigging truss and soften the visual transition from the sculpture to the open ceiling and clerestory windows above. Additionally, our fabrication expertise made it possible to incorporate custom wiring and controller boards within the skeletal frames, rather than externally, contributing to a clean and beautiful finished installation.

What were the results of the project?

The cumulative effect of the museum’s exhibits and 'This Little Light of Mine' soaring and singing in the central gallery is breathtaking. Visitors to the museum congregate under the sculpture—sitting on benches in reflective solitude or clapping their hands and singing along to rousing spirituals—as if drawn to an invitation to express feelings stirred by the exhibits. The museum has proved to be extraordinarily popular, with attendance since opening in December nearly doubling projections.

Content is submitted by the participant. IFAI is not responsible for the content descriptions of the IAA award winners.