Barbizon Helps Illuminate Billy Graham’s Legacy

The Billy Graham Library and Visitor’s Center is dedicated to celebrating his life and work, and the new 40,000-square-foot library depicts Graham’s life as part of the ongoing mission of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA). The library offers visitors a look at Graham's historic evangelistic events, his innovative use of radio, television, and film to reach out to millions of people around the world, meetings with presidents and world leaders, his work for racial equality and religious freedom, and a glimpse into his personal life.

ITEC Entertainment Corp served as the designer and producer installing, producing, and commissioning all of the exhibit displays, audio and video media, lighting, projection systems, animated figures, and control systems. Jeffrey W. Burton, ITEC’s executive producer, points out that there were a number of challenges facing his team from ITEC. “We were challenged to create a site, facility, and exhibits that leave lasting memories of the key aspects of Billy Graham’s life, mission, and message, thus serving as a continuation of his ministry. We had to find creative ways to condense hundreds of hours of archival film and thousands of photos to relate an engaging storyline, keeping the presentation fresh and avoiding a simple repetition of standard video screens.”

The ITEC design solution was to create immersive settings depicting key timeframes or subject matter from Graham’s life in which archival video and photos are presented using a variety of techniques to support the storyline without dominating the setting. Guests move from space to space, feeling a part of each setting and gaining insight into Graham’s life and ministry. For example, the high-tech library is in a dairy barn-styled building. “The entire setting of the barn forms a background context of the humble beginnings of the man, Billy Graham,” says Burton. “This themeing is consistent, starting with the Graham family homeplace and continuing into the barn lobby, the bookstore and the dairy bar. When guests enter the exhibits, the themeing moves from the barn setting to parallel the content of each scene.” The tour features a range of exhibits and multimedia displays including a recreation of Graham's landmark 1949 Los Angeles big tent meetings; a Berlin Wall display reflecting Graham's efforts in eastern Europe; theatres where sermons and other films are shown; and more than 350 photographs.

ITEC brought in Barbizon Charlotte to help realize their design, commissioning Barbizon to furnish, hang, and focus the lighting fixtures and accessories. Burton feels that the theatrical lighting is a key aspect that supports the exhibits and galleries. “Immersive exhibits that depict the specifics of Billy Graham’s ministry and life use programmable, colored theatrical lighting to complete the scene and to focus the guest’s attention. These immersive scenes depend almost completely on controlled theatrical lighting for their illumination.” Burton continues, “The galleries also utilize blacklight fixtures to illuminate suspended written copy, giving it an added emphasis within the space. We also employed hundreds of fixtures to frame lighting upon individual photographs and written copy. The design includes dark blue fabric wall coverings that reflect little light and help the illuminated images ‘float’ in the space.”

John Hartness, systems division manager at Barbizon Charlotte talks about the solution of projecting text on some of the walls. “The projection of scripture on the walls was a challenge. Anytime you have a projection of text, there are certain issues created by the laws of physics, i.e. blurring of the image as you move towards the edges. Apollo Design Technology did a great job working with us to achieve a good final image. The sheer number of fixtures that we put into such a tight space was also challenging,” continues Hartness. “With over 400 instruments, finding places to put everything and cabling everything in an attractive fashion was certainly a challenge. The galleries were a particular challenge, with many artifacts in a confined space, each requiring isolated lighting. The project certainly tested the ability of our installers as far as focusing in a tight space. The use of a Martin Professional Mac 150 as a guard tower light in the Berlin Wall exhibit was something I found particularly ingenious.”

The equipment package also included Electronic Theatre Controls 4x600W SmartBar Dimmer Bars, a wide range of ETC Source Four ellipsoidals, as well as both Times Square Mini Ellipses and Mark III Pin Spots, Altman 65Q and 75Q Fresnels and Altman 10” scoops. Also used were Wildfire’s 400W long throw floods, 250W long throw wide spot blacklights. For mounting, Barbizon used Applied Electronics 16”x16” box truss and Mole Richardson 24” Adjustable Hangers. Working on the project with Hartness was Barbizon Charlotte Project Manager, Paul Strom.

Burton was very pleased with their decision to use Barbizon, “ITEC enjoyed the working relationship with Barbizon. The team was responsive, helped develop solutions to field issues, adapted well to schedule challenges and owner directed changes, and coordinated well with the other show team members.” Hartness comments that he enjoyed working with the ITEC team and was “impressed with the breadth and depth of their knowledge of all aspects of the project and their design capabilities.”

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