|The Mount Opens Nightwood Immersive Exhibit |
|By Sabrina Damms, iBerkshires Staff |
12:01PM / Saturday, November 19, 2022
|The Mount's Nightwood light and sound installation runs on the grounds of the mansion through Jan. 1.|
Now in its third year, Nightwood was created as a safe outdoor event during the pandemic.
LENOX, Mass. — By day, a historical museum paying tribute to American storyteller Edith Wharton; by night, a fanciful world bringing dreams and stories to life.
The Mount has decked out its grounds for the annual Nightwood installation with lights and music to provide an immersive experience to its visitors throughout November and December.
"It really is a sort of transformational experience. It happens over the holidays, but it has nothing to do with the holidays. It's really just the celebration of the universe," The Mount Executive Director Susan Wissler said.
"And in particular, the trees at The Mount, many of which are 150 to 200 years old, and so through the use of sound and light, we create these seven or eight immersive experiences. And each has its own musical score that has been composed specifically for the installation."
This year the route is different and includes three new sound and light elements, including "The Pool," "The Glass Garden" and "The Heart of the Forest."
People walk along a route lit by torches and accented by music and sounds from the natural environment designed to create a calming yet magical experience. Visitors could be heard praising the installation's beauty and wonderment.
"It's fantastic this year, they really went above and beyond. It's amazing and it takes my breath away," Mount docent Ben Gelb said.
"This whole thing is overwhelming. Somebody had just stumbled into it and was walking around as it was getting darker before we'd started Nightwood tonight, they had no idea what was going on and they described it as being like wandering to the enchanted forest."
Each individual's perception of the installation is subjective, so their experiences can vary.
"Nightwood is really about helping the inspiration for an individual. So I want people to be reminded of maybe memories that they've had of trips through the woods, or of spending time in nature during other seasons … remembering maybe even things deep in their past or in stories or literature that they've read," Nightwood Creative Director Chris Bocchiaro said.
"We're not trying to create anything with too fine a point on it with a particular storyline. It's very much bring your own storyline in your head as you experience it. And our hope is that we can illuminate enough of nature to kind of guide that experience for each individual."
The team worked to create a safe, beautiful environment to let people experience a variety of emotions and enjoy being outdoors.
"There's no particular agenda that we have other than making a place that is pleasant to be in and whether that's pleasant in a way that's exciting or contemplative, or meditative or just kind of calming, or a little invigorating whatever that is it's an environment that that we've sort of crafted to try to let people experience those emotions and just enjoy being outdoors at night in a beautiful place," Bocchiaro said.
When Wissler first came up with the idea of the installation she was inspired by the stories she loved deeply as a child, including the "The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe" series, "The Hobbit," and "The Black Cauldron."
When speaking to Bocchiaro and his team she told them to consider these stories when creating the experience.
The Mount initiated the exhibit in 2020 as a direct response to the pandemic, allowing it to expand outdoor programming that people felt comfortable participating in.
Since then, the creative team has learned a lot about the terrain and environment and have built a relationship with it.
"After three years of coming back and creating things for this property, I feel like I have a relationship with them and I think like, each of you has a relationship with the property as well. I feel like it's sort of the other big element," Ben Lieberson, associate scenic designer and technical director, said.
"I think initially, each of the pieces is inspired by something about the terrain, or the history, or something that we see in the spots as we walked through a property to begin with. I think there's a certain great realness that comes from the property."
An example of this was the new sound and light elements, "The Pool" was inspired by how the area became flooded during mud season earlier this year.
"We were just kind of mesmerized, by the way the water played, even during the daytime, and seeing it full of water. And, of course, now they've actually repaired a lot of it. So it's much drier. But that sort of inspired that whole piece," Bocchiaro said.
After three years, they are still surprised by what they discover when working on the exhibit.
"We start with sort of fixed points, like fixed vantage points, that this is the spot that we imagined something from but even tonight, as we're walking through, we keep finding these little hidden spots and looking over at things that we either hadn't encountered on our own and people seem to organically be discovering those as well," sound designer and composer Greg Hanson said.
Each medium used enhances the experience and mingle to provide one cohesive journey of discovery.
"So when one piece frames another piece behind it in an interesting way, I think it's fun to discover that, especially at night because even during the daylight installing them you see everything and at night, the illuminated things are highlighted in a way that makes the framing of them I think interesting and different," Lieberson said.
Hanson expanded on this sentiment saying, "The blackness in the absence of light in places where we haven't put stuff is interesting, because you don't get that in the daytime. Because everything's lit up because it's sunlight. So when it does come down, it makes everything feel more intentional."
One of the interesting struggles they had to overcome over the last three years was learning how the sound and light would interact with the different environments and how to make it blend, Hanson said.
When working on the installation, the artists would hyperfocus on a particular aspect so seeing the completed project for the first time at the opening was interesting because they got to see how the audience chose to move through the space and what they responded to, Lieberson said.
"I think every time I come back, there's always a sense of magic and wonder and awe of like, you sort of zoom in, as Ben was saying, on the piece that you worked on, and then seeing it with all the lights and the sound come together is always just such an exciting experience," scenic designer Megan Kinneen said.
The exhibit runs until Jan. 1. Tickets are free for Community Partners and EBT, WIC or ConnectorCare Card holders as part of the museum's NightWood Card to Culture program. Children under 5 are also free.
Tickets cost $10 for ages 6 to 18 and $22 for adults 19 and older. More information here