NEW YORK – Home Alone, Scrooged, Miracle on 34th Street…there’s a reason why so many holiday film classics, from comedies to love stories, are set in Manhattan. A certain magic seems to happen every year on the city’s bustling streets when the temperatures drop and the snowflakes fall. Maybe that’s why New Yorkers have eagerly embraced seasonal attractions like the popular Bryant Park Winter Village.
Located at a 9.6- acre park squeezed between glass skyscrapers, this attraction creates a five-month winter wonderland in Midtown Manhattan with hundreds of pop-up shops of all descriptions, along with the city’s only free ice skating rink. This year, the village has an especially warm and colorful glow, thanks to an elegantly balanced lighting display created by Diana Kesselschmidt that features a collection of over 130 CHAUVET Professional fixtures supplied by PRG.
Kesselschmidt, who is lighting the Bryant Park Winter Village for the first time, used 116 COLORado 2-Quad Zoom IP fixtures and 18 Ovation E-260WW IP ellipsoidals to bring an added level of warmth to the popular attraction. “Coming here is a tradition for many New Yorkers,” she said. “We wanted to use lighting to create an immersive atmosphere that reflected this connection between the people of the city and this spot.”
COLORado 2-Quad Zoom IP fixtures units in Kesselschmidt’s rig wash the 17,000-square foot ice skating rink, as well as the interiors of its first and second floor pavilions, which house a skate rental center, lockers and meeting areas. The high-output warm white Ovation ellipsoidal fixtures are positioned on towers that surround the rink, and are used to light the skating area and project evocative gobos.
“A key to selecting both fixtures was their IP rating, since we are up for five months in New York City winters,” said Kesselschmidt. “Both are withstanding the elements very well, but their benefits go far beyond their durability. The zoom range of the COLORados (14° to 44°) has been instrumental in allowing us to create a variety of looks by changing coverage areas, and their natural colors showed up very well on the ice.”
The warm white light of the Ovation E-260WW IP lends an inviting glow to the ice rink. “At first, we were torn between warm white and cool white for templates on the rink,” said Kesselschmidt. “I am very happy with how the warm white looks, and how it works with the wash colors from the COLORados as well as on skin of the skaters. The warm white light allows us to create a much more inviting feel for this rink.”
Kesselschmidt, who created her design on Vectorworks, relies heavily on various seasonal gobos to evoke welcoming feelings at the Winter Village. The crisp, natural looking gobos she projects on the rink and in the surrounding buildings have a transformative effect on visitors, encouraging them to feel as if they have indeed entered a winter wonderland where they can leave their everyday concerns behind and enjoy the pleasures of the season in New York.
“I felt that gobos of the right intensity, in the right sizes, using the right images could do a great deal to create an evocative mood,” said Kesselschmidt. “I spent a lot of time creating a natural variety on the ice that would be immersive and feel grander.”
Going beyond the ice skating rink, Kesselschmidt used snowflake gobos to create an immersive mood in the Winter Village Pavilion 1, which houses the entry, skate rental center, bag check and snack bar. She also used snowflake cluster gobos in the foyer and stairs at the pavilion to add to the ambience.
The Bryant Park Winter Village opened on October 28 and runs through March. To keep the attraction looking fresh, its lighting design changes to reflect different seasonal themes, with programming cues triggered on a calendar by day and time of year. Day cues begin in the morning, while night cues begin before sunset. There is one night cue for Sunday through Wednesday, another for Thursday and added ones for Friday and Saturday. There are also cues for special events such as Valentine’s Day, Winter Carnival, ’80s Night, and Mardi Gras.
“Our programmer Louis Malagrino did an excellent job,” said Kesselschmidt. “So too did production electrician Shawn ‘Jr’ Robinson and rigger Ken Flagg, as well as our audio team, Bob Rendon, Dave Chessman, Wes Warren. This was my first year lighting the village, and they helped make it a success. From the minute I walked into the space for the first time last March, I knew what I could offer, so it was gratifying to see that vision come to life.”
That Kesselschmidt wound up creating all that she imagined on that first day demonstrated once again that in Manhattan dreams do indeed come true every holiday season, not just for a talented lighting designer, but also for the thousands of visitors who come to enjoy a winter experience at a Midtown gem called Bryant Park.