Client: The Alys Foundation
Location: Alys Beach, FL, United States
Completion date: 2021
Cofounder / Curator
VP-Marketing and Communications
"like a breath but a breath" 2021
Carl van Brunt
Documentation and Editing
As cofounder and curator of an annual immersive art festival, Digital Graffiti (DG) at Alys Beach (approaching its 15th year!), Brett Phares developed a strong and thoughtfully intimate platform comprising a multitude of light art experiences. These range from simple projection to elaborate mapping onto the built environment and the maturing foliage of the community of Alys Beach, a New Urbanist town in Northwestern Florida.
Alys Beach is a natural laboratory for nighttime projection. With little light pollution, the experimental nature of the event adapts all forms of digital art. Averaging 30 installations per year with art from 50+ countries, the event began with an 18-acre footprint. This year’s event nearly doubled with a pandemic-sensitive drive-thru view instead of the usual walk about, emphasizing the flexible nature of the medium and the ability to pivot to different modes of viewing.
Each year is truly unique. The magical wash of light art, the ever-changing presentation and the breadth of the immersive experience refresh the eyes of locals and enchant newcomers. The event is much anticipated in the southeast and gaining national recognition. Smithsonian Magazine describes DG as one of five “can’t miss” light festivals in the world.
Originally, DG was an inspired way to lure prospective homeowners to the uniquely designed, burgeoning Andrés Duany (Duany Plater-Zyberk & Company) master planned town. Hence, DG has become known as one of the top annual events in the region, drawing on the local community to welcome visitors for a glance at award-winning architecture through the eyes of light artists. For creators, DG is a natural laboratory for the experimentation of digital media art in the built environment; it showcases a significant community of artists over 14 years. Today, the mission sets the stage for digital art and the day-to-night transformation of a thoughtfully planned town, the beautiful design and complementary union of new media with structure and nature.
Over the course of a year that culminates in a four-day exhibit in May, DG starts nine months prior with a free open submission process. Two to three prospective resident artists are recruited in tandem with open submissions. Once resident artists are selected, locations are assigned. In late January, a list of approximately 25 finalists is developed from the open call and presented to the Town of Alys Beach. Approved finalists’ works are tested by location and to determine other needs to install the work. Ten days prior to event, resident artists take up their stay and begin experimenting with their work. Normally, approximately half of the finalists attend the event and participate in media, artist-only get-togethers and artist talks with attendees. A panel of judges determines winners (Best of Show, etc.), which are announced the last night of the event.
For a tour of Digital Graffiti, see video below.