During the weekend Wellington was lit. Literally. We are hosting the annual LUX Light Festival, an installation art extravaganza that illuminates the city during the darkest winter months.
LUX is loved by Wellington folk and is a truly a sparky event festival in the annual calendar. Along with light, it also offers food and surprises. This year, a change is in the air. LUX has moved away from a single route to becoming larger, taking over five zones of the city -from Frank Kits Park to Leeds Street. So who leads those persons working tirelessly behind the scenes, to brighten up Wellington. I wanted to shed some light on the matter. I met Mary Laine, the co-founder, to find out what brightens up her life.
"I wanted to shed some light on the matter. I met Mary Laine, the co-founder, to find out what brightens up her life"
WHAT IS LUX?
LUX Light Festival is a free public light festival that turns Wellington’s waterfront and laneways into a captivating celebration of light, art, technology and design.
...AND HOW DID A SAN FRAN NATIVE START A LIGHT FESTIVAL IN WELLINGTON NEW ZEALAND?
Mary was born in San Francisco. Raised by a housewife and vet father, she was a surfer girl & educated as an artist and went to study both writing and art. She was a full-time artist for a while, organising gallery exhibitions, before becoming frustrated by the isolation of it all. “You need those experiences outside of yourself to grow, as a person and artist!” she says.
In 2003, Mary and her partner, who is a software architect, decided to move from the United States to New Zealand, due to the changing political climate post-9/11 (remember when we thought Bush was the absolute WORST president of all time?!). They chose to go to Wellington “and did not look back” she says. She now lives in Brooklyn, Wellington.
"Moderation is not my strong point. Now I do LUX and it’s totally taken over!”
Mary then worked first for the New Zealand Fringe Festival in Wellington – “It just exploded from there! My original plan was just to dip my toe in. Moderation is not my strong point. Now I do LUX and it’s totally taken over!” Mary recognises how lucky Wellingtonian’s are to have a city that welcomes exciting events and ideas with open arms. “In San Fran, it could be difficult to get noticed – there are so many people, you can be incredible and still not get picked because it was so crowded. In Wellington, if you are willing, you will fly up that ladder! I call it the place where dreams come true!”
WHY A LIGHT FESTIVAL?
“Light Festivals are all around the world. They’re great for the economy of the city!” Mary explains. She founded LUX with 3 light artists (Mary is not a light artist, she chuckles). Two of the artists were academics were at Massey University, while Mary and her co-founder Rob of Storybox had been working on a project together. They brought on the Wellington City Council, and Massey University, starting small with 4 installations and a tiny $15,000 budget. “The aim is to make the art free and accessible. A lot of things, where it is free, the quality is reduced. We are motivated to keep LUX to a high standard. All of the works are being shown for the first time!” Mary says.
“The aim is to make the art free and accessible. A lot of things, where it is free, the quality is reduced. We are motivated to keep LUX to a high standard"
LUX is formed around the city landscape and the walking culture of Wellington. “When we are curating the exhibition, we respond to the buildings, water features and structures of the city. We can get people to come here and understand what it really means to be a Wellingtonian. It is boutique. It’s about quality,” Mary stresses.
LUX'S BIGGEST CHALLENGE?
“The Weather!” exclaims Mary. “It can be CRAZY! There was a huge storm during our second year – in 2013. No one showed up except the Mayor at the time, Celia Wade Brown!”
WHERE WOULD YOU FIND MARY ON A TYPICAL WELLINGTON DAY?
“I love Eva Beva and Southern Cross for an after work drink! It’s close to my work at Massey University” Mary says. “When it comes to food, I love to eat at Niccolini’s, on Courtenay Place! It’s my comfort food. I tend to have meetings on Cuba Street, at cafes like OIive, Plum and Loretta. Everyone who works in those places are lovely.”
When it comes to clothes, Mary is as creative in her wardrobe as she is in her work. “I love op shopping,” she says. “I love the boutiques on Cuba Street, especially Recycle Boutique. I like 1960’s styles and also the old lingerie sections. I could spend, like, 2 hours in there.”
WHO WOULD SHE HAVE DINNER WITH, LIVING OR DEAD?
“Frida Kahlo – I’d love to get her sassy self into my house,” Mary says. “Then David Bowie, and that female Astronaut who is in charge of the space station right now. Although my partner is a great cook – so he’d be the one cooking!!” she laughs.
WHAT ARE THE PARALLELS BETWEEN WELLY & SAN FRAN?
“Wellington is like someone took San Fran and shrunk it in the wash. Both have an edgy feeling – it is ok to be yourself and uniqueness is celebrated. When I moved to Wellington, I though Wellington was like San Francisco in the 1950’s. It’s a nice combination of being safe, clean and friendly, but still has that edge. When you see art or theatre here, you know it is cutting edge. San Francisco is more urban and gritty. In Wellington, you can open up. My friends over there are surprised by all the cool things that happen over here. Wellington can compete globally to be a really cool place to live and there are really cool things happening!”
WHAT WILL PEOPLE LEAVE LUX WITH IN 2017?
“Awe, delight and community”, says Mary. “LUX is an event where people will be engaged – interacting with the works.” And that is something which I feel we Wellingtonians can get on board with.
CREDIT WHERE CREDIT'S DUE! Photos from LUX taken by Lukasz Dudek on Canon EOS 500D. Photos of Mary Laine taken by me!