Three giant smokestacks at a decommissioned power plant in Morro Bay, California came alive with vivid colored lights and patterns in a pair of “guerrilla-style” art projects featuring Clay Paky A.leda B-EYE K10 fixtures. A.C.T Lighting is the exclusive distributor of Clay Paky lighting in North America.Morro Bay is a town of 10,000 people on a picture-perfect slice of the California coastline near San Luis Obispo. It boasts a rock one-third the size of The Rock of Gibraltar and a two-mile waterfront, which includes a shuttered power plant that’s been a challenge to tear down or repurpose.
Chris Stavros is Chief Maker at makeSEA, a website that provides collaboration tools for makers. He got the idea to light the smokestacks with B-EYEs for an impromptu still photographic shoot. His project created so much buzz that he was invited to design a Fourth of July art installation with the B-EYEs a few weeks later.
It all started when Stavros’s twin boys were graduated from Los Osos Middle School. A fan of Phish, Stavros had been following the lighting technology used by the band and noticed B-EYEs as soon as they came on the scene.
“I was looking for an excuse to get my hands on them, and the Middle School graduation dance was my chance,” he says.
Stavros rented six B-EYE K10s from Bill Gaines Audio (BGA) in San Luis Obispo to light the students’ Under the Sea Dance.
“The lunchroom was transformed into a dance club with fish, bubbles, fog machines and lights,” says Stavros. “It looked great!”
Then he got the bright idea to ask the owners of the mothballed power plant if he could use the B-EYEs to light the smokestacks for a still photo shoot. He got permission, and while the shoot was not announced to the public it generated “enormous social buzz – more than any other city project,” Stavros reports.
Stavros used six B-EYEs to bathe the three smokestacks with light and patterns. The stacks are 450 feet tall and about 75 feet apart.
“We weren’t sure how effective the B-EYEs would be on such a large canvas, but we lit each stack with two lights placed about 45 and 60 feet away from the base and pointed low and high to wash the entire tower,” he explains.
“The stacks were the perfect canvas for the B-EYEs. We ran through seasonal colors for the holidays then some rainbows and patterns. Everything was done with the B-EYEs preprogrammed shapes and functionality – the variety of settings gave us a huge palette to work with. We played with zoom and rotation to morph looks on the fly. And we felt we only scratched the surface of what the B-EYEs could do.”
Next, Stavros spent an afternoon setting up an impromptu “old-school beach party” with a DJ and dancing right on the sand 35 feet from the water in Morro Bay. The B-EYEs lit the nostalgic scene.
“People walking by on the waterfront were blown away – they had to pinch themselves to make sure it was real,” he recalls.
Three weeks later the mayor of Morro Bay asked Stavros to light the smokestacks for the city’s weekend Fourth of July celebration.
As director of the Morro Bay Stacks Art Light Installation Project, Stavros rented 14 B-EYE K10s from BGA for the event. Four lights were trained on each stack and two on the seven-story building behind the smokestacks.
“We did more visually this time,” says Stavros.
“We used the moving heads and patterns. We washed the stacks in red, white and blue, of course, but we were all over the map with different looks.”
Stavros controlled the lighting from the Morro Bay rock, about one mile away, using a proprietary system he devised from a cellular connection, virtual private network and Apple iPad interface.
Stavros hopes that the success of the Stacks Art Light Installation will spur Morro Bay, a city that thrives on tourism, to form a committee that would commit to lighting the stacks on a permanent basis.
“The city could do six or seven applications a year,” he says.
He emphasizes that his “guerrilla deployments” – the school dance, beach party and the two Stacks events – were done with “very little professional rigging and special mounts. The B-EYEs are so easy to use. We rolled them out and got amazing effects without a lot of planning.”
For these reasons Stavros believes there’s a potential new market of B-EYE users who are lighting non-professionals. “The B-EYEs could spark creativity in a way that could go viral in terms of a new, unrealized market share for moving head fixtures of this caliber,” he says.
“B-EYEs could be used in a huge array of applications by special interest groups – cities, clubs, schools and other organizations – that could leverage the power of the B-EYEs to celebrate seasons, holidays and special events and add flair to parties. B-EYEs are very special lights!”