BY CARMEN SIERING
It has inspired other works of art, from choir pieces to dance performances, and it’s been the site of marriage proposals.
It’s become a tradition during Indiana University’s summer orientation, a place where matriculating students gather at night, lie on their backs, prop their legs up, and experience an awe-inspiring light show.
And it’s been absent for more than a year, since a structural problem was discovered in March 2013, and university officials pulled the plug on Light Totem, the iconic 70-foot-tall light sculpture that has graced the entrance to the IU Art Museum since 2007.
The happy news is that the dazzling derrick of computer-programmed LEDs has been redesigned and rebuilt and is coming back in a celebration that’s part of the museum’s Midsummer Night event scheduled for Saturday, June 21, from 7:30 to 10 p.m.
“The Light Totem was designed to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the museum, and was supposed to stand for just three months,” says creator Rob Shakespeare, a professor of lighting design in the Department of Theatre, Drama, and Contemporary Dance. “But there was soon a realization that this was a robust and significant construction.”
Within a year of its installation, the Light Totem experience made the IU Bucket List (“The official ‘Must Do at IU’ for the True Hoosier”) and became a feature on campus tours. Its popularity, and its contribution to the campus arts district aesthetic, prompted the IU Board of Trustees to approve the structure for permanent placement in February 2010.
Linda Baden, Light Totem curator, says the reinstallation is a celebration of both the artwork and those who have worked on it. She says many campus crafts people have been involved in the project and feel especially connected to it. “Welders, electricians, lift operators, so many people are part of this project,” she says. “It’s been a very collaborative process.”
Shakespeare says that when he created Light Totem he had no idea what its impact would be. “When you make a significant public artwork, you can never predict the outcome,” he says. “You hope it will be successful. Light Totem has become a part of IU culture. That’s a huge accolade.”