This year's Winter Lights Festival on Dec. 5 at the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts will feature a new lighting display that organizers hope could become a tradition.
Krannert Center graphic designer Anni Poppen has created an animated aurora borealis display that will swirl above the Great Hall upper foyer, which is about 35-feet tall by 80-feet wide. "I've never done anything quite this grand," Poppen said.
The display, created in collaboration with lighting designers Michael Williams and Lisa Kidd, was funded by an anonymous donor in honor of Shelley Crane, a former Krannert Center employee who died in 2009. The display will simulate the dancing fluorescent ribbons of the northern lights that light up the winter night sky in the northern hemisphere. The display adds a Midwest touch with photography of the Champaign-
Urbana landscape by Krannert staff photographer Valerie Oliveiro. Poppen used software to animate colors, layer lighting and slip in a few hidden messages. Williams and Kidd set up three projectors and mirrors to project the wintry images.
Crane worked in lighting during her time at Krannert, so the display will be an appropriate memorial, Poppen said.
"Shelley had a great passion for working with students and loved being a lighting designer," said Lisa Lillig, assistant director for client relations. "I remember her putting lights on the Christmas tree. It would take her days, meticulously wrapping each branch so that no part of the tree was unlit. There was no need for decorations when Shelley was finished. Just the lights made the tree beautiful.
"For that reason, it's especially poignant that the aurora borealis display is being done with her in mind."
The aurora borealis will be on display through Dec. 22 and will be best viewed from outside on the Goodwin Avenue side of the building, according to Poppen.
The Winter Lights Festival will turn Krannert Center's lobby into a warm, intimate 1950s cocktail party atmosphere (without the alcohol).
The free event, sponsored by the Krannert Center Student Association, will feature family-friendly programming and live performances from the Central High School Jazz Band and the Illini Swing Society. The society will offer free dance lessons at 3:30 p.m. for those interested in dancing to the music starting at 4 p.m.
Children can visit Father Christmas, play with an interactive toy from eDream and create a holiday craft. The festival will feature demonstrations of lighting traditions from around the world. Guests are encouraged to bring donations for Toys for Tots or the Eastern Illinois Food Bank. Food also will be available from Edible Arrangements.
Events scheduled the same day include two performances of "The Nutcracker," by the Champaign-Urbana Ballet and Sinfonia da Camera (2 and 6 p.m.), the School of Music's Annual Carol Concert (3 p.m.), the UI Latin Jazz Ensemble (3 p.m.), and the UI Jazz Trombone Ensemble (7:30 p.m.).
The Krannert Center Student Association is made up of 150 student volunteers who donate their time to promote Krannert Center activities and an appreciation of the arts at the UI. Other units at Krannert, including Lighting, Building Operations and Patron Services, have joined forces to contribute to the success of the festival.
"We have amazing student volunteers," Poppen said. "The fact that they take what little free time they have to be here is a gift. I'm proud to have been a part of this whole process."
Holiday events at Krannert Center
Champaign-Urbana Ballet and Sinfonia da Camera
• 7:30 p.m. Dec. 3
• 2 and 7:30 p.m. Dec. 4
• 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. Dec. 5
Tryon Festival Theatre
Annual Carol Concert
School of Music
3 p.m. Dec. 5
Foellinger Great Hall
Winter Lights Festival
Krannert Center Student Association
3:30 p.m. Dec. 5
Krannert Center lobby