Artists from around the globe converge on downtown Breckenridge May 31 to June 3, 2018 for the third annual WAVE: Light + Water + Sound—a 4-day festival from Breckenridge Creative Arts that employs cutting edge digital technology to investigate intersections of art and science while transforming local nightscapes into wonders of light and sound.

Far from simple eye candy, the outdoor installations seek to kindle community connections as people interact with the artworks and one another, while explorations of water and ecological topics inspire meditations on our place in the world.

“WAVE exemplifies the idea that art is for everyone,” said Robb Woulfe, president and CEO of Breckenridge Creative Arts (BCA), which puts on the annual festival. “The large-scale, interactive artworks are freely accessible to all, and inviting in a way that traditional gallery exhibitions often are not. This creates unique opportunities for interaction and collaboration among diverse members of our community.”

‘Angels of Freedom’ by OGE Group
One example is “Angels of Freedom,” a series of ornate light-works representing angel wings and halos created by the Israel-based OGE Group, a studio founded by architects Merav Eitan and Gaston Zahr.

“We love the idea of simplicity and that things work themselves, without explanation,” said Zahr. “So while thinking of a new light art installation for Jerusalem—a very contested city, where so many different religions come together—we looked for something that unites, that is universal and appealing to everyone,” he said.

During the WAVE festival in Breckenridge, as in Jerusalem, visitors can pose with the wings, snap photos of one another, and share the images online for the world to see.

“Our times are fast-living and many people get left behind or feel this way, when they do not have enough money or many friends or do not check their social media every few minutes,” Zahr said. “It’s very painful to see, that often even kids are not getting the warmth and care they deserve. Or the elderly, or disabled, or homeless—you name it. That’s why we wanted to give everyone a pair of colorful wings—to make others see.”

Zahr describes the work as emotional—both for the person standing in front of the wings, and for the camera-wielder who tries to capture “the exact moment of transformation.” Either way, he said, “you cannot miss their smiles and happiness.” “It also contains a lot of humor and silliness,” he said, “but I think the message works.”

‘Impulse’ by Lateral Office and CS Design
Festivalgoers will find a similarly playful piece in “Impulse,” a series of illuminated see-saws that emit sound sequences and varying light intensities when set in motion. Created by a team of Canadian artists/designers, the result is a community-activated musical instrument that doubles as a visual spectacle and public play space for children and adults alike.

“‘Impulse’ represents a feat of design-thinking, illustrating not only creative vision but also the math, science, and engineering required to create a functional object,” said Woulfe. “Ultimately, the art is in the interaction—the transformation of public space into a stage for creative play.”

That idea underlies “Catalyst,” a project for which BCA recently received funding by the National Endowment for the Arts, allowing it to expand the number and reach of interactive and participatory public artworks in 2018, both at WAVE and the Breckenridge International Festival of Arts this summer.

‘Place/d’ by Stephanie Imbeau
Also to be exhibited at WAVE is “Place/d,” a new, site-specific work by Stephanie Imbeau that uses the simultaneously protective and fragile qualities of umbrellas to create shelter-like forms that explore “place” as a point in space, and “placed” in the sense of a caused positioning.

To be hewn of donated, recycled umbrellas and illuminated at night, the work will arch across the bridge from the Riverwalk Center to Blue River Plaza, and connect via a “breadcrumb” trail of elements through the festival’s footprint up Washington Avenue to the Robert Whyte House in the Breckenridge Arts District.

“This piece is inspired both by the river rocks and the community that is built around the river,” said Imbeau. “The river’s movement and the history of dredging is a causal factor for the location of rocks along the shores.” At the same time, she explained, Breckenridge was built where it was because of the river’s location, and the town grew as people chose to “place” themselves there. “I’m interested in the intersection of the two—of intention and causation,” she said.

The work’s title, “Place/d,” is admittedly self-reflexive as Imbeau—who is half Canadian, grew up in South Carolina, and now makes her home in Berlin, Germany—also thinks about “the confluence of intention and causation in where I’ve made my home(s) thus far,” she said.

She works with umbrellas in part because they are widely recognizable, and thus can serve as a sort of “egalitarian symbol of shelter.” They also evoke how we establish ourselves in a community. “You can create a home for yourself by renting, buying, or even physically building a space for yourself,” she said. “The important thing is that we take specific or intentional actions that allow us to carve out a personal place in which we feel comfortable. These dwellings become an extension of our physical bodies as we stake our claim within our communities.”

Community members can join Imbeau in assembling the structures in May while she is in residency at the Arts District, and are later invited to bring their own interpretations to the finished work, which she hopes will be “a celebratory and vibrant addition to the festival” that people can relate to on a number of levels.

‘Interphase’ by Cacheflowe + AudioPixel
Another original piece, entitled “Interphase,” comes to the WAVE festival through a creative collaboration between coder/musician Justin Gitlin and AudioPixel, a group known for large-scale LED installations. Gitlin, who is known as Cacheflowe, produces experimental electronic music and works in “creative coding,” a field that uses software as a tool to produce everything from 3-D models and cross-disciplinary artworks to interactive installations.

Gitlin worked as a programmer on the team that produced “Dancelab,” a wildly popular exhibit at the Denver Art Museum in summer 2016, in which guests’ movements were recorded and projected alongside dancers from Wonderbound dance company to create an algorithmically choreographed music video.

For Breckenridge, Cacheflowe will create “a musical instrument with user interaction where anyone can walk up and make music,” he explained. The music will drive LED-illuminated water fountains to create a spectacle of light, sound, and water that “reacts to the music being created on the fly,” he said. Gitlin will also offer a free community workshop on creative coding at the Arts District as part of WAVE.

‘Aura’ by Julie Hughes
Meanwhile, inside the public Gallery@OMH, contemporary artist Julie Hughes—who showed an ominous work at the 2015 Breckenridge International Festival of Arts depicting ghostly white, beetle-drilled aspens bordered by menacing dark swarms—returns with “Aura,” a peaceful meditation consisting of tens of thousands of hand-made, circular plastic canvases suspended in a 3D display of color and light.

Her process involved brush-painting circles on large sheets of clear archival mylar, followed by acrylic “pours”—a method she likened to “orchestrated puddles” in which “paint is allowed to spread and move, and the pigment disseminates in a really interesting way.”

“I want the viewer to feel it’s almost like a space they can walk into,” she said of her planned installation, which will be lit from different directions. The transparent material “creates opportunities for color-filled shadows that feel like auras,” she said.

While her earlier work was “about being a small person in a large world,” her current work represents the evolution of that concept, influenced by personal life changes. “This is still about our relationship with nature,” she said, but it explores “the sublime,” a concept in which “nature is so vast and incredible it is in some ways impossible to capture.”

“There’s a macro-and-micro thing going on where you have this vast expanse that feels like it might be tied to cosmology, and you have these little units that feel cellular,” she said of “Aura,” which opens May 31 and runs through July 29. “I am interested in the idea of all things being energy, of all things being connected, that the same sort of elements that make up the stars are found in our bodies—that’s a really beautiful thing.”

Partnerships + Pieces
Belgian artist Tom Dekyvere, who exhibited his glowing, intersecting network “Polygonum 2.0” last year, returns in 2018 with “Elantica,” a fractalized, digitized replica of a mountain made from discarded circuit boards and powered by solar panels.

Playing on the wind overhead in the night sky will be “Les Luminéoles,” a spectacle of illuminated, bird-like creatures in the form of “light kites” from the French group, Porté par le Vent. The aerial ballet will be accompanied by a wind quintet from the National Repertory Orchestra, performing two concerts nightly for the festival’s duration.

Breckenridge Film Festival returns too with “WAVE Reels,” a series of shorts inspired by light, water, and sound, in the Arts District outdoor theater. Local cellist James Russick Smith will perform a musical piece on an island in the Blue River, and Keystone Science School returns with science-based children’s activities related to festival themes.

“Art and science need not be separated,” said Woulfe, expounding on the narrative that underpins the latest incarnation of WAVE: Light + Water + Sound. “While science can shape the industry of a society, art can shape its consciousness,” he said.“We believe art is a vital catalyst for change.”

OGE Group //
‘Impulse’ //
Justin Gitlin //
Stephanie Imbeau //
Julie Hughes //
Tom Dekyvere //
Les Luminéoles //
WAVE: Light + Water + Sound //
Gallery@OMH // 136 S. Main St.

Photos by or provided by Audiopixel, Creos, Sean Deckert, Tom Dekyvere, Justin Gitlin, Julie Hughes, Stephanie Imbeau, Joe Kusumoto, OGE Group, Porté par le Vent and Regis Proulx