In the Garden:
Mid-Atlantic
July, 2012
Regional Report

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The Forest of Light is one installation of Bruce Monro's On Light exhibit on display at Longwood Gardens through September 29. Photo by Margie Greenberg.

"Light" by Night at Longwood

Eager youngsters tugged their parents' arms, drawn like moths to a flame. Other visitors standing at the Small Lake's shore were mesmerized, taking pictures, or moving for a different view. The wonderment -- a field of colorful lights reflecting in the water, 7,000 frosted glass spheres blinking in waves of pink, purple, blue, white, yellow, and green in the early evening.

The "Field of Light" is one of eight extraordinary installations in the "On Light" exhibit by British artist Bruce Munro at Longwood Gardens, Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, on view through September. Nearby, beyond the Flower Garden Walk, "Arrow Spring" flowed, a white, star-like serpentine meander by night. This watercourse of fiber optic spheres and LED flashlights weaves 15,000 points of light like a stream through the slope of sage.

On opening night, ABC producer and award-winning gardener Marilyn Phister was quite impressed with Munro's artistic interpretation of Longwood's Forest Walk in the garden's north woodland. " 'The Forest of Light' is like walking into a science fiction movie, yet the way he designed and implemented it was very organic," said Phister. Munro and staff installed his "Forest of Light" with 20,000 illuminated glass spheres along forest paths among tulip trees, white oaks, and sugar maples. Munro drew inspiration for this eerie, glowing scene from dormant seeds bursting into bloom after a rainfall.

Munro's "On Light" installation gives us a "whole, new reason and opportunity to go to Longwood ... and at a different time of day," noted Phister.

"I thought it was a really innovative and unusual way to reinterpret the garden landscape," Phister continued. "We're accustomed to garden lighting for accents and spotlights. Munro brings us a garden of lights, not just a garden of plants."

Munro's choice of primary materials -- cutting-edge fiber optics, glass spheres, LED flashlights, light diffusers -- is high tech. He's consciously made a light environmental footprint though, using recycled CDs for "Waterlilies" on the Large Lake and one-liter recyclable plastic bottles for "Water Towers" in the Meadow at Hourglass Lake.

"It was really smart for Longwood to bring in an artist of international renown and let him have his way with the garden," Phister observed. "This must have been an interesting collaboration between the artist and the landscape."

In the Conservatory's Exhibition Hall, Munro has hung "Light Shower," comprised of 1,650 tear-drop-shaped diffusers suspended from the ceiling by fiber optic strands. Above the Orangery's green lawn hangs "Snowballs," a kaleidoscope of six large glass chandeliers changing color in unison.

Longwood staff and volunteers worked with Munro and his team to construct the two-year-long project, an awesome, once-in-a-lifetime collaboration all likely learned from and will remember.

Summer visitors will find unique "Light Nights" programs, including Family Fun Shines on Friday evenings and SmART Nights on Thursdays evenings now through September 20. Family Fun Shines from 5 to 9PM are light-themed with crafts, concerts, dancing and singing. SmART Nights are interactive programs featuring regional experts sharing interesting facts and findings about the science of light, followed by a participatory StorySlam with First Person Arts.

For details, see www.longwoodgardens.org.


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