Historic Oakland Cemetery’s abundance of history, sculpture, and gardens will be featured in a new light this year as guests experience Illumine, an immersive self-guided after-dark experience. Taking place over four nights from May 9 through May 12, Illumine will explore themes of light, the cemetery’s history, and botanicals native to the grounds.
Guests can expect video to play a big role in this year’s experience. Steve Bransford, a filmmaker and video producer for faculty research projects at Emory University, is creating video installations that will be projected on mausoleums and other sites for the event. He is the creator of the documentary The Well-Placed Weed: The Bountiful Life of Ryan Gainey along with Illumine’s Creative Director, Cooper Sanchez.
Bransford originally began creating content featuring archival photos of Oakland but found few, mostly low-resolution photos, so his work for Illumine will center around two concepts: mixing 24-hour time lapses of the cemetery that feature plays of light on Oakland’s statues, and macro videography of local flowers. Since Bransford started work on this project in February, guests will get to experience the full sweep of all that has bloomed this spring at Oakland. Furthermore, on the botanical theme, Tori Simmons, an Oakland gardener, will create elaborate and historically appropriate funerary botanical displays inspired by the Victorian era.
“The installations are not trying to steal the show. They are going to accentuate, rather than compete with, the space.”
Bransford says he is most excited for guests to enjoy an engaging environment where they can explore Oakland Cemetery in a new way, aided by various light installations and video projections. “The installations are not trying to steal the show. They are going to accentuate, rather than compete with, the space,” says Bransford.
Sean Diaz, a Preservation Specialist at Oakland, has played a large part in the planning of Illumine this year. His familiarity with Oakland’s pathways has been instrumental in his running of logistics for the event. Diaz has walked the event routes to ensure that there are no tipping monuments or bricks out of place. He points out that Illumine will feature not just Oakland’s prominent treasures, including several items found on the Smithsonian’s list of outdoor sculptures, but also but sites that have yet to be restored, including Potter’s Field and North Public Grounds.
The Beaumont Allen Greenhouse is another spot which will be featured as a part of Illumine. The Buckhead Men’s Garden Club offered the greenhouse to Oakland Cemetery when the Cyclorama moved to the greenhouse’s former spot at the Atlanta History Center in 2014.
Another main theme for Illumine this year, unsurprisingly given the name of the event, will be the use of light to showcase Oakland in a way that guests have never seen before. When first conceptualizing Illumine, Oakland staff members were inspired by photos they took when beginning work early in the morning. The team noticed how light impacts the way monuments and statues look throughout the day. Long shadows are cast across Confederate monuments, for example, and writing on headstones and monuments can only be seen in certain lighting. Lightboxes, lanterns, balloons and other tools will replicate these experiences and create an ethereal and memorable environment for guests to explore.
In addition to being completely produced in-house, Illumine 2019 will be different from the 2016 event by the same name. This year’s Illumine is self-guided in order to create a more relaxed environment and avoid congestion on paths.
Tickets remain for Thursday, Friday, and Sunday can be purchased through Freshtix. Tickets will also be sold at the gate each evening that has not sold out (we encourage everyone to check online to see if tickets will be available). Saturday night is almost completely sold out, and tickets will not be sold at the gate.
Learn more about Illumine.