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WAC character comes to light

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The Watson Art Centre (WAC) has been a chameleon, changing from city hall to an art centre, with a few other configurations in between.
With the addition of new wall grazer lighting, the grand old building is truly a chameleon, now having the ability to change colour.
“What’s unique about the WAC, from my perspective, is it’s a living part of the city’s history. Because its been so many things, like the fire station, police station, even the jail and city hall,” said community energy manager Steven Sobering.
“And now it’s home to musicians and dance troupes, artists, it’s a great venue for weddings, community events. And so, it’s evolved over the years from its intended purpose.”
The city recently installed lumenfacade 48” RGBW wall grazers at WAC, from Luminpulse, a Quebec-based company.
“Unlike a flood light or a spot light, it’s actually meant to graze the wall and bring out some of the contour of the building, like the brick facade and the brick features of the Watson Art Centre,” Sobering explained.
The approximately $25,000 lighting system includes a wall controller, some software and seven light fixtures.
It has several capabilities, Sobering said, such as the ability to change colour, plus changing in different sequences where colours will fade in and out, flash off and on, or pulse.
“It’s a very controllable system thats only limitation is your imagination,” he said, adding WAC administrator Cheryl Nicholson has quickly learned how to program it.
Sobering is pleased with the way the system draws attention to the beautiful details of the masonry of the WAC.
Lighting the WAC is one part of a larger project, he said, through Dauphin Economic Development and Tourism.
In the last year, Sobering noted, the province has added uplighting to Dauphin Court House and the City lit up the historic CN Station, before the WAC job was tackled.
“Because of its uniqueness and a centre for arts and culture, we decided to go a little further and add the colour changing feature,” he said.
Sobering pointed out the lighting project is part of a larger plan for the downtown area, including upgrades to CN Park, lighting the CN Station, and WAC, the demolition and renovation of the former La Vérendrye restaurant and sprucing up the former Manitoba Hydro Building.
So far 10 businesses have accessed the city’s business facade upgrade grant program, he said, and 10 more business upgrades are planned.
There has also been work done to several pocket parks along Main Street, Sobering said, with coloured cement, new benches and stain on the planter boxes.
As the project at WAC wraps up, he said, Economic Development and Tourism will focus its attention on City Hall, with a similar project.
“So its the first project of hopefully a series,” Sobering added.
The controllable coloured lighting infuses a new energy, he said, while maintaining the grandeur of the over-100-year-old building.
“It’s a nice little hybrid of new and old,” he said, adding it highlights iconic features of the building and is unique to Dauphin.
Sobering noted Luminpulse has implemented many large lighting projects around North America and the world.
“And they stand behind the product,” he said, adding it was one of the factors in choosing the company.
The new lighting system at WAC will be introduced to the community with a sound and light show, at the last venue of the Culture Days Yardfringe event on the evening of Sept. 29.
After that, WAC will be lighted each evening with a soft white light and use the coloured light program for special events or activities.
“If you’re renting the building and you have a desire to see something unique, or you want to incorporate some coloured lighting into your event, they should be able to accommodate that,” Sobering said, urging anyone interested to contact Nicholson at WAC.

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M. A. Nyquist
REPORTER
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