Lightswitch redesigns arboretum illumination
Wednesday, 20 January 2021
morton-arboretum-202022The installation featured over 700 Elation fixtures
USA - For The Morton Arboretum, the idea of not running Illumination this past holiday season was not an option, says Lightswitch principal John Featherstone about the popular wintertime lighting display in Lisle, Illinois. Illumination continues to shine through after being redesigned for a drive-thru experience using additional Elation luminaires, the eighth year for the project.
“It’s about a partnership between a remarkable institution, and an industry full of incredibly creative, hard-working and motivated people who are still passionate about delivering remarkable experiences to an entertainment-starved public and bringing relief to people,” says Featherstone. “The motivating force behind why the Arboretum decided to pivot Illumination to a driving experience was not only to ensure guest safety in the middle of a pandemic, but also because we all felt there was something we owed the local community.
“For seven years, we've asked the guests of the Chicago area to come to the Arboretum and we felt a responsibility to honour that. This has been a year of ‘no’s’ and it would have been easy for the Arboretum to have skipped this year, but we wanted to deliver something to the people of Chicagoland that was a ‘yes’.”
The new driving experience includes favourite lighting displays re-envisioned along with six newly designed sights displayed along a two-mile road among the Arboretum's magnificent trees. Guests immerse themselves in magical woodlands and landscapes filled with dramatic lighting and colour-changing illumination, and, of course, they do it from the comfort and safety of their own car.
With guests sitting in their cars instead of walking a path closer to nature, Featherstone says they had to let go of what they’ve done in the past and focus on what they could do. “We didn’t want to try and make it feel simply like the walking experience from inside a car. In order to make it feel like something new we had to rethink it through the lens, or in this case the window, of what it's like to be in a vehicle which is very different than viewing it when walking the trail.”
The show was more visually dynamic than past years with more Elation Professional luminaires used than ever before. Over 700 Elation fixtures form the foundation of the lighting including IP65 Proteus Beam and Proteus Hybrid moving heads, Arena Q7 Zoom PAR wash lights, Level Q7 IP RGBW PAR lights, and for the first time, Elation’s 50,000-lumen Proteus Maximus. The two-month, cold weather project proves an ideal environment for the multi-environmental Proteus series.
“Frankly, the Maximus is going to change the way we think about a lot of elements at the Arboretum,” Featherstone says. “It takes any kind of video projection technology that we can use out back behind the shed and steals its lunch money! It's brighter, it's crisper and we don't have to build an enclosure to protect it. We can tuck fixtures in places where we otherwise couldn't get video projectors so it's brilliant.”
Lightswitch works closely with Intelligent Lighting Creations (ILC) on the Illumination project and again this year the Illinois-based design and rental house supplied the lighting fixtures. Illumination was once again extremely well attended with the initial closing date of 3 January extended until 10 January.
In closing, Feathertone adds: “We are so proud of the experience we were able to create with the staff at The Morton Arboetum in the middle of a global pandemic, and were able to keep both staff and guests safe. We can’t wait to return Illumination to the beloved walking experience in 2021, as we all look forward to a return to normal.”

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