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Morton Arboretum light show a dazzling display

"Illumination: Tree Lights at the Morton Arboretum" is an interactive lights display running through Jan. 4 at the Arboretum.

"Illumination: Tree Lights at the Morton Arboretum" is an interactive lights display running through Jan. 4 at the Arboretum.

Facts

‘Illumination: Tree Lights at the Morton Arboretum’ 4:30-8:30 p.m. Nov. 22-Jan. 4; closed Nov. 28 and Dec. 2, 9, 16, 24 and 25 Morton Arboretum, 4100 Illinois Route 53, Lisle $15; $10 children ages 2-17 Advance ticket purchase recommended. Mortonarb.org/illumination

“Illumination: Tree Lights at the Morton Arboretum”

4:30-8:30 p.m. Nov. 22-Jan. 4; closed Nov. 28 and Dec. 2, 9, 16, 24 and 25

Morton Arboretum, 4100 Illinois Route 53, Lisle

$15; $10 children ages 2-17

Advance ticket purchase recommended. Mortonarb.org/illumination

The upcoming interactive lighting exhibit “Illumination: Tree Lights at the Morton Arboretum” may leave visitors with a different impression of trees.

Unless you are hanging Christmas lights from them, people generally forget about trees in the winter, said lighting designer John Featherstone. “But they’re very much part of our landscape heritage and part of our lives.”

The exhibit won’t be traditional holiday lights twinkling on trees, but rather “something that you see that engages you on a path of discovery,”said Featherstone, co-founder of Lightswitch, a lighting and design firm that worked with the Morton Arboretum to execute the exhibit, which runs Nov. 22-Jan. 4.

Channeling parts of the Morton Arboretum into an interactive, lights extravaganza, visitors will feel like they are watching a concert’s light show in certain areas, Featherstone said.

“We’re engaging people to connect with trees emotionally, to engage their senses with cutting-edge light projections and gaming technology,” said Sue Wagner, vice president of education and information at the Arboretum.

Specifically there will be a mile-long path around Meadow Lake where visitors can meander through a conifer collection made up of spruce and pine trees.

With a few exceptions, there are no light fixtures actually on the trees. Featherstone described the display as essentially like one giant, high-bandwidth wireless network with transmitters and receivers throughout the Arboretum.

One portion of “Illumination” allows children to hug a tree and watch the intensity of its color change. In another location, adults can select an image, such as the passing of seasons, to project onto the arbor. “That’s pretty amazing to see images that evoke thoughts about trees and our urban landscape projected 20 to 30 feet high across the lake,” Wagner said.

There will also be shadow lanterns that sway in the wind sprinkling shimmering patterns of light and shadows on visitors and trees along the path.

“The dots are moving constantly over people, so there’s this element of motion that isn’t created by people. It’s really, really cool,” Wagner said.

Each visitor’s experience will be unique, Featherstone said, because the receivers “take a whole bunch of data from a whole bunch of sensors, it’s functionally impossible to recreate that particular combination of data coming from those particular sensors.”

The result is that “you get a sense that your presence and your opinion matters in the experience and it is something unique and distinctive to you,” he said.

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Facts

‘Illumination: Tree Lights at the Morton Arboretum’ 4:30-8:30 p.m. Nov. 22-Jan. 4; closed Nov. 28 and Dec. 2, 9, 16, 24 and 25 Morton Arboretum, 4100 Illinois Route 53, Lisle $15; $10 children ages 2-17 Advance ticket purchase recommended. Mortonarb.org/illumination
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