Client: Arts United
Location: Fort Wayne, IN, United States
Completion date: 2014
The new Black Box ArtsLab Theatre for Arts United's Auer Center in Fort Wayne, Indiana, had two underlying design themes. First, we wanted to create a flexible laboratory for artists, directors, musicians, actors to explore their craft. However, this space was also meant to increase the Fort Wayne community's engagement with the local arts scene. Meant to be more than a space where theatre meets patron, the building itself becomes a performer, and ambassador, for the public. This theatre was designed to demonstrate the energy and creativity of the ideas and themes being explored within its walls.
This project is unique in that the artwork came from the client in the form of special lighting design that was used to enhance the black box theatre atmosphere. Design Collaborative worked with Arts United's Technical Director to develop a lighting treatment that would engage the students and visitors who enjoy the performance space. This lighting approach was crucial because the walls needed to remain untouched but the client still needed a simple and adaptable way to create visual interest in the space for a variety of occasions.
At Design Collaborative, our standard process heavily involves our client in designing every space and this was no exception. In fact, our collaboration with Arts United was even more intense as our clients were able to bring their skills and experience to the creativity of the design. The lighting strategy, both interior and exterior, was a joint effort between the interior designers and engineers at Design Collaborative and Arts United's Technical Director. The firm took the time to learn exactly what Arts United was hoping to accomplish with the space and they were able to develop an extremely functional design. However, as we considered making the space attractive to visitors and students, we knew the client needed to keep the theatre walls clean for versatility purposes, so our interior designers and engineers worked with their technical director as we planned the lighting system. The result was an adaptable and engaging lighting treatment that can create dynamic interiors for any event.
While the interior lighting had a specific purpose to enhance the performance experience inside the theatre, the exterior lighting was also designed with a purpose. Colored LED panels were installed in an asymmetrical pattern on the exterior of the theatre to be highly visible by passing downtown motorists and pedestrians. This design element has become an important way to draw community attention to the new building and to the work being done inside.