Light Up NOLA Arts Fete to illuminate downtown Dec 6-9

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NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Lights will turn a Greek Revival building in New Orleans into a canvas for animations highlighting celebrations in New Orleans and Mexico. Digital sculptures and video-mapping projections on Lafayette Square and a nearby street also will be part of the city's fourth Light Up NOLA Arts Fete, or LUNA Fete for short. The four-day festival that starts Wednesday and also kicks off New Orleans' tricentennial.

The fifth LUNA Fete will come at the tricentennial's end. The festival was conceived as a five-year series ending next year, but the Arts Council New Orleans — a nonprofit organization and the city's official arts agency — is now thinking longer.

"We invented this in 2014 not really knowing if people were going to care, going to come. We are so proud and pleased that people do care — that it's established itself as part of the cultural life of the city," said Nick Stillman, president and CEO.

He said last year's festival brought out 60,000 people.

"This year, since it's a tricentennial event, we expect 75,000" people to show up over four days from 6 to 10 p.m. he said.

It was among the first of what is now a growing number of light festivals in this country when it started in 2014, as a way to bring together two parts of the city's economy and culture, Stillman said.

"We felt New Orleans had this growing technology sector and growing contemporary arts field, but nothing that really united the two," Stillman said.

The council also sets up workshops each year for local artists. This year, a sponsor underwrote a 13-weekend workshop in which girls aged 9-14 designed and built an installation for LUNA Fete, and the work they created.

Their "Spirolux," in which thousands of LEDs respond to nearby movement, is among 19 pieces by local artists to be set around Lafayette Square and down the street running from the square toward the city's convention center.

The workshop was run by Electric Girls , a local nonprofit created to teach girls leadership through programming and electronics skills. Members of that class also will be out for two hours each night, teaching people how to make LEDs which artist Megan Jewel will be assembling into a mural.

The festival's centerpiece, a 10-minute animation commissioned from AVA Animation and Visual Arts of Santiago de Queretaro, Mexico, will play at the start of each hour on Gallier Hall, which was New Orleans' city hall for more than a century. For the other 50 minutes, people can talk to artists, view and interact with their work, and watch a laser light show above Lafayette Square.

This year's entire festival is costing about $350,000 to $375,000, Stillman said.

"We're proud of the fact we raise all of this ourselves. This is not a city-funded venture," he said.

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