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Art installation lights up the Pit

The stair tower at WisePies Arena, aka the Pit, is now the home of a constantly changing interactive light display. (Courtesy of New Mexico Arts/Phyllis Kennedy)

The stair tower at WisePies Arena, aka the Pit, is now the home of a constantly changing interactive light display. (Courtesy of New Mexico Arts/Phyllis Kennedy)

Exploring the notion that a building can be “a living, breathing organism” was behind the creation of “Inside/Out,” an interactive public art light installation, and now a permanent feature in the multi-story glass stair tower at WisePies Arena, aka The Pit.

Inside/Out was the invention of Ivan Toth Depeña, an artist based in Miami and Charlotte, N.C., said Caitlin Olsen, spokeswoman and event planner for New Mexico Arts, a division of the state Department of Cultural Affairs.

Not only does the installation treat the University of New Mexico arena as a living organism, but it demonstrates how activities that occur on the inside “can be expressed through light on the outside,” Olsen said.

Microphones and sound sensors placed in the seating area of the arena pick up the sounds of the crowds, which are then relayed to the glass stair tower where the sounds are translated as different colored lights. The constantly changing volume of the crowd in turn creates the constantly changing colors and patterns of the light, Olsen said.

Another programmed feature is “sunset mode” to display the colors of New Mexico sunsets every evening as the sun goes down. The artist, Olsen said, set it up based on photographs of majestic New Mexico sunsets, “and like those sunsets, each one is different.”

Depeña’s intention, she said, is for “the architecture to have a direct dialogue with the landscape, horizon and the site’s general environment.”

The $200,000 cost of the installation came from the Art in Public Places Program or AIPP, also called the One Percent for Public Art program.

The Inside/Out installation “adds another feature to what already is one of the most iconic venues in all of sports,” said UNM athletic director Paul Krebs. “We continue to look for ways to enhance the fan experience and the vibrancy surrounding all of our athletic facilities.”

The installation, with its constantly changing lights, also “adds a new element to Albuquerque architecture by creating movement in the skyscape,” Olsen said.

In honor of UNM graduation ceremonies taking place at the arena, Inside/Out will glow “Lobo red” tonight, and on Sunday it will go into its programmed light sequence, which includes sunset mode.

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