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CMA's Robin VanLear, Artistic Director Community Arts on Winter Lights Lantern Festival 2016

Each year as the Lantern Festival Procession unfolds I stand in the crowd at the museum’s north door and share with those around me an anticipatory awe as we wait for the lighted dancers to emerge through the open doors into the darkened night. For me the lights spilling softly over the dancers, painting the air with their movement is magical.

This year’s procession is titled Advent of the Yule Queen – Night Heralds the Dawn.  The 45-minute procession is a celebration in two acts.  Act 1, Las Flores Encantadas, invites the audience to follow the illuminated Wise Men puppets and Luna Flora and Knights of Light dancers into a fanciful environment of 12’ tall, glowing dandelion puffs. For Act 2, In the Aviary, the procession returns to the art museum entering the atrium where the knights and moonflower dancers transform into birds of light and night. The Yule Queen and the Night Herald gather darkness to meet the dawn. Join us for Cocoa and cookies after the show.

Inspired by varying creative motivators, processions as an art form have been with us since Biblical times.  Frequently religious, most always mesmerizing, processions call to us to follow, to be there to be part of the communal spirit.  Processions often take place in sacred places or lead us there.  Temples, churches, mosques, and fairy circles, all have at times either hosted or been the destination of processions. Our atrium is a space for our time. When individuals with so many differing beliefs live in such close proximity, the museum atrium is a place for procession and congregation.

When the museum was built in 1916, it is obvious that such spaces were an important part of the design.  The next time you visit the 1916 building pass from the Atrium and up the marble staircase into the interior Garden Court and finally climb a few more steps until you stand in the building’s heart, in the Rotunda.  Different elements of the Lantern Procession recall First Nation masks, the movement of Japanese brushwork, illuminated manuscripts, tapestries of knightly deeds, and the symbolism of Pre-Raphaelite paintings.  Enter any gallery surrounding the Rotunda, and you can make your own discoveries and associations. 

The Winter Lights Lantern Festival is part of Holiday Circle Fest. Festival performances and programs at the museum begin at 1pm.  You can participate in one of our free public lantern making workshops between 2 and 4:30 and make your own lantern to carry in the procession. If you are short of time, purchase one of the beautiful lanterns made by the museum Womens Council and join the congregation.  The procession begins at the museum’s north door and the experience will make you smile. For the entire month of December you can return to wander through the Wade Oval Environment of Lights or view the lantern displays in the north lobby and in the tunnel entrance to the museum on the Education level.  

For a complete schedule of activities for the Winter Lights Lantern Festival, click here.

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