Work by Amanda Parer.
Work by Amanda Parer.

The Light Fantastic

A magical world of light and technology merge at Dlectricity — thanks, in part, to two men named Schwartz.

Let there be light, says Midtown Detroit Inc. and DTE Energy Foundation.

And so it shall be Sept. 22-23, when Dlectricity returns to Midtown for the third time since its inception in 2012.

Dlectricity, a spectacular evening outdoor festival of art and light inspired by Nuit Blanche festivals all around the world, will take over the exteriors of buildings on Woodward from the Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA) to the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit (MOCAD). Visitors are immersed in a landscape of light through groundbreaking installations of video art, 3D video mapping, lasers, interactive design and engineering, and captivating performance.

A curatorial team that reviewed more than 270 local and international submissions ultimately chose 36 artists (13 invited and 23 selected from an open call) to participate in this year’s event. Chaired by George N’Namdi, Dlectricity’s curatorial team was made up of voices representing Cranbrook, the DIA, College for Creative Studies (CCS), MOCAD and the University of Michigan.

“Our team was very bold in selecting artists that reflect the diversity of our city and are using light in amazing ways to express their vision,” said Marc Schwartz, Dlectricity chair and Art Detroit Now founder. “We continue to think about light as a symbol of energy, reflection and community connection.”

Los Angeles-transplant and community-minded artist Gary Schwartz (no relation to Marc Schwartz) moved to Detroit with his wife in 2003. The Academy Award-nominated filmmaker, director and animator travels the world teaching animation workshops. His Dlectricity project will be a culmination of workshops he presents to kids and senior citizens associated with Hannan House in Detroit (through the Luella Hannan Memorial Foundation). He has named his Dlectricity kinetic visual storytelling project “Speramus Meliora Resurget Cineribus.”

“I came up with that title because I’m so creative,” Schwartz jokes. “I ripped off the quote directly from [Ste. Anne’s Church Assistant Pastor] Father Gabriel Richard, who came up with the motto for Detroit after the fire of 1805: ‘We hope for better things; it will arise from the ashes.’”

Schwartz’s workshop participants will create a soundtrack and animate the quote, in English and Latin, synchronizing it to the soundtrack. The phrase will then be split in half and projected in loops on two separate windows of Hannan House during Dlectricity.

“The goal of this project is to take things that are opposite and put them together. The idea is to have a metaphor for a sense of community. I want them to think about what the motto means in the past, the present and the future,” Gary said. “It’s really important that the students work together because Detroit, as far as I’m concerned, is all about community.”

As a full-time Detroit arts ambassador, advocate and chair of Dlectricity, Marc Schwartz knows all about community.

“Gary is a positive force of nature, whose work exudes energy, creativity and playfulness,” Marc said. “The Dlectricity artists this year are extraordinary, and we are excited to bring this incredible event back to Midtown. In many ways, the eyes of the contemporary art world are on Detroit at this moment.”

Marc Schwartz says that, this year, the footprint of art installations has been condensed to make the event more walkable for visitors. Schwartz projects over 150,000 attendees plus more than 3,400 cyclists who will participate in the Light Bike Parade. The “Rolling Light Exhibit” Parade will start in the heart of Midtown on the campus of Wayne State University and will wind its way throughout the area where the public will line the streets and enjoy the light show.

“We’re hopeful that even more people will come to our festival this year to celebrate the best things about Detroit,” Marc said. “The projects and performances we selected were based on a number of criteria, including artistic merit and how well the project uses various media … and other creative technologies, as well as how the projects exist within an urban environment.”

Growing up in L.A., Gary Schwartz taught animation workshops at the Wilshire Boulevard Temple and, in the summer, was a counselor at Camp JCA Shalom, teaching art, photography and animation.

“I approach life and art-making in an open-ended way — not based on a hierarchical structure of rules,” says Gary, whose entire life mission since the age of four has been, “How am I going to subvert the dominant power structure today?”

“The job of an artist is to question things and see them in a fresh new light, just like Dlectricity,” adds the former professor at CCS and an adjunct professor at U-M’s Penny Stamps School of Art and Design.

“A lot of fundamental metaphors and stories in Judaism are about light, like the miracle of keeping the menorah lit for eight days. There are so many stories about searching for the truth in the open light and moving away from the darkness. Judaism is about putting the light on things of knowledge and understanding.”

Julie Yolles Special to the Jewish News

Dlectricity will be held in Midtown Detroit from 7 p.m.-midnight Sept. 22-23. For more information or to register for the Light Bike Parade, go to

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