Five Questions For Andrew Grant, Lighting Designer

1. For your work on Dreams, an exhibit at The Museum at FIT, you had an interesting space in which to work. What was the inspiration?
My inspiration was, in fact, to make the space go away—it is quite a sterile room—and to create within it a “dream” space using light and the set as a metaphor for the show. The curators had found portable freestanding paper walls that they wanted to use as backdrops for some of the art. These accordion-constructed paper walls were so cool that I didn’t want to see the solid walls of the hall at all. We decided to keep all the art away from the walls of the space and have it “float” in the center of the room. The challenge was to keep the overall ambient light level low to downplay the room. The white paper walls were a giant bounce for light, so that informed my choice to use heavily saturated color. I used many different colors in the blue range with different saturation levels to give shading and texture to the walls.

2. You’re also designing lighting for Lincoln Center Out of Doors and Midsummer Night Swing this summer. What are the challenges for those projects?
This is the 50th anniversary of Lincoln Center, and in the spirit of that celebration, I want to put the “festive” back in festivals. The venue, Damrosch Park, will have its main stage at one end for LCOD and, for Midsummer Night Swing, a large raised dance floor in the center. Then, there are the features of the park itself—trees, band shell, walkways, etc. I want to use lots of color and some movement to create a festive environment for the whole park and not just the stage. The greatest challenge is the length of the day; it is never easy to compete with daylight.

I also want to give each act a unique look. That can be hard with one rig and such a diverse group of artists that will each have its own needs. I plan to use many lighting positions that can move with ease and a diversity of fixtures.

3. What is the best career advice you’ve ever been given?
Rob Strohmeier, with whom I’ve had the privilege of working over the years, has, on more than one occasion told me, “Don’t be afraid to say no.”

4. What has been the proudest moment in your career?
I am so proud to work with the people that I do. Any time I get to do a project big enough to bring in my entire core “team,” I am overwhelmingly proud. These people, many of whom are top-notch designers in their own right, are more than a collection of assistants and crew; they are my friends and an inspiration. Getting to celebrate a kickass job well done with them after an event is an honor and is when I feel the most proud of what I do.

5. What inspires your creative goals?
There are three parts that I can identify at this point in my life to my creative inspiration. The first is my subconscious. I spend a lot of time being aware of the way light looks in the world around me and the way it makes me feel. I try not to overanalyze any of it. Just let it all in. I try to develop my understanding of something that is so ubiquitous in order to foster a visceral understanding of light.

The second is collaboration. My inspiration is fed by the ideas of others—their problems, visions, and needs.

The third is my personal motto: Anything can happen at any time. It has a twofold meaning. One speaks to the uncertainty of the world around us. But, it also says that anything can be achieved whenever you need to achieve it. That gets me going. Difficult challenges are some of my most satisfying creative endeavors.

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