MAGIC HOUR - THEATER MURAL ART
Meg Saligman | Mural Artist
“And while her works reference the great mural artists of the past, she also embraces current technologies and methods by using computer programs in the design and execution of her paintings.” Stephanie Taylor, NMSU art gallery interim director
New Mexico State University, Las Cruces, NM
Heckendorn Shiles Architects assisted Mural Artist Meg Saligman with architectural planning required for the design and install of her competition-winning mural at a new theater for New Mexico State University. “Magic Hour” is a 1,500 square feet, three dimensional mural painted on concave ceiling planes, narrating the colors and history of New Mexico and the cultural heritage of dance performance.
Custom designed and constructed light fixtures, along with a hoist system, are integrated into the artwork so that the light sculptures emerge from the painted theater ceiling, raising and lowering just as the rising and setting sun over New Mexico.
The mural’s fusion of canvas and technology renders the building itself as an extension of the stage productions; it is the constant performance art within the Theater, creating a bit of magic by channeling art and architecture together - what is real, what is sculpture, what is paint? Does the ceiling curve or is it an illusion? The abstract depiction of the rising and setting sun, the colors of the desert, the visual history of local tradition “performs” above stage and seating.
The unique lighting hoist system, that undulates as the sun rises and sets, was specifically designed to allow for the fixtures to raise to maximum clearance height for optimal lighting requirements during performances.
Art design, fabrication and installation of “Magic Hour” commenced after the base design for the Theater had been completed and construction was underway. The entire mural design - both artistic and architectural - compliments and heightens the theater experience.
Extensive Design and Modeling
HSA designed the system to eliminate impediments to the mural features and installation. Careful modeling of theater light beam projection, hydraulic spray of side-wall sprinklers, maintenance clearances of the electric hoists utilized to raise and lower the light fixtures, and three dimensional surface ‘penetrations’ such as sprinklers, hoist cables and structural catwalk supports, was necessary for the Art Project Team to adequately coordinate with the construction underway and to procure permitting approvals from various regulatory agencies in New Mexico.
The mural is illuminated with eight custom silk pendant lights. The light fixtures are programmed with the house lights to be lowered before and after performances and during intermission, making the artwork part of the experience for theatergoers.
The movable fixtures are integrated into the control system of the theater. They can be positioned to clear sight lines for the theater lighting, creating a dramatic and dynamic space for theater patrons.
Geography and Construction
Geographic locations of project collaborators increased challenges to the realization of the project. The entire Art Project Team of artist, architectural coordinator, lighting design and fabricator, all are situated in the Greater Philadelphia area. The project site and construction team were local in New Mexico; the theater design architect was a NYC firm; structural and electrical/mechanical engineers were based in Connecticut and Texas; the hoist system design and fabricator was based in Wisconsin, and the theater consultant was in California. The geography of the various team members required meticulous communication and a unique level of trust.
Technology and Communication
Extensive design modeling, documentation and communication allowed the painting of the mural to occur in Philadelphia by one team with final seamless installation in New Mexico by the overall construction team.
Art and Architecture
The entire mural design - both artistic and architectural - compliments and heightens the theater experience.