WITH EVENTS SUCH as a multimedia narrated concert exploring the cosmos in Galileo’s time and a celebration of the 30th anniversary of Carl Sagan’s television series “Cosmos,” the eighth annual Light in Winter Festival promises to offer something for anyone with either a passing or passionate interest in either art or science.
The jam-packed weekend begins Thursday January 20 and runs through Sunday, January 23 at venues throughout downtown Ithaca and at Cornell University; this unique and innovative festival is the only one of its kind in upstate New York.
Writing for the New York Times in November, 2008, Jill P. Capuzzo wrote this about Ithaca: “An outpost of urban sophistication in the heart of one of New York’s most scenic regions, Ithaca has an unusual combination of brains and beauty.” Ithaca is indeed a brainy city as well as an artsy one, and Light in Winter provides a rare opportunity to explore and celebrate the interactions of the arts and sciences in venues and events that highlight the urban cultivation Capuzzo referred to.
Light in Winter is also a successful town-and-gown endeavor that brings together Cornell University and city of Ithaca organizations and businesses such as The Hangar Theater, The Science Center, and The State Theatre. Finally, the festival is also widely representative of many of Ithaca’s demographics: the city has long been a cultural haven of food, art, music and literature for residents, faculty, and tourists alike, all of whom are engaged during this January event.
This year, notable events include an interactive stage show that brings Star Trek to life, the science standup of Tim Lee, and the return of the Alloy Orchestra to town.
“A lot of people categorize the arts and the sciences as outside of their understanding, or their comfort level,” Executive Director Marie Sirakos explained. “But art and science are both behind everything in our world on some level or another. Bringing those two things together makes a lot of collaborations possible, and it’s what Light in Winter is all about.”
According to artistic director and founder Barbara Mink, Light in Winter aims to “entertain your brain,” but the eclectic collection of performances, presentations, concerts and workshops will also stimulate all of the senses.
The sights, sounds and tastes of science will echo throughout the weekend’s events. The weekend kicks off Thursday at the Museum of the Earth with a local wine and cheese tasting reception from 6:30-7:30 p.m., followed by the PowerPoint comedy of Tim Lee, a former biologist (“Off the Charts,” 8:00 p.m., Thursday).
Activities continue Friday, with both the Kitchen Theatre and the Tompkins County Public Library participating in specially-themed gallery nights. At the Kitchen, Mink’s paintings will be on display, and at the TCPL, an exhibition designed to celebrate the anniversary of Carl Sagan’s television series “Cosmos” will gather images of Mars provided by Cornell University’s Mars Rover Group, images of Saturn and Saturn’s ring by the Cassini Orbiter, paintings by Barbara Mink and an image of the Big Dipper by Dan Larkin.
“The goal of these collaborations is to have a moment of discovery for the audience,” Sirakos explained, “where they’re seeing something for the first time in a new light.” She continued, “When art and science come together there is a very exciting moment of discovery—kind of like turning on the light bulb. We really enjoy blowing people’s minds, and helping them see their world in a different light, so to speak.”
Though in past years, Light in Winter has had a theme, organizers stopped limiting themselves a few years back: “There’s a lot of magic possible when you talk about the convergence of art and sciences,” Sirakos said. ”We wanted to be open to all of the possibilities, and we think people will be happy with what we’ve put together.”
That said, some “through-lines” do emerge, according to Mink, of “exploration, whether it’s of the cosmos, our senses, human evolution, or the world around us.”
Highlights of 2011’s Light in Winter Festival include:
* “Off the Charts with Tim Lee.” A Biology PhD, Tim Lee is a humorist that blends stand-up comedy with science and PowerPoint presentations (8:00pm Thursday, Jan. 20, at The Museum of the Earth).
* “Midwinter Barbaric.” Poet, essayist and naturalist Diane Ackerman joins the 16-member Cayuga Vocal Ensemble performing choral works on a wintery theme (7:00pm Friday, Jan. 21, at The Statler Auditorium, Cornell).
* “Perpetual Motion: Revolutions in 17th Century Science and Music Reading and Musical Performance.” Author Dava Sobel weaves commentary by astronomers through a concert of the avant-garde music of Galileo’s time (7:30pm Saturday, Jan. 22, at The Hangar Theatre).
* “The Hall of Wonders.” Curious exhibits and hands-on activities to inspire curiosity and learning, the Hall of Wonders is a science fair for all ages, or a museum that has come to life (12:00 noon Sunday, Jan. 23, at The Statler Atrium, Cornell).
There are many more activities over the course of the weekend; for more information and a more detailed schedule with up-to-date schedule changes, please visit www.lightinwinter.com.
Tickets to Light in Winter are on sale at The Ticket Center in Ithaca, 171 The Commons – Next to 15 Steps, Open Monday – Saturday, 9:30 AM – 5:00 PM, (607) 273-4497, ithacaevents.com, or at lightinwinter.com.