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SETTING OUT TO illuminate the Milwaukee Art Museum's 44th annual Bal du Lac gala, two priorities topped the list for Clearwing Productions, West Allis, Wis.

For Aaron Hubbard, lighting department operations manager, the goal was to “get in as quickly as possible and use the least resources.” Meanwhile, lighting designer Bryan Brunclik was aiming to “make sure the whole building was lit, top to bottom, inside and out, [while] matching the theme of the current exhibit” — a collection of African sculpture.

The tack they took drew on three types of fixtures from Dallas-based Vari-Lite, including the new VL3000, used for the first time to light an architectural structure at the May gala.

Six VL2000 wash luminaires set at the bases of individual columns provided light from dusk until after midnight on the patio of the building, designed by noted Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava. Meanwhile, inside the museum's ballroom, the Clearwing crew installed four VL2000 spot luminaires on a shelf above the entrance doorway, using the fixtures to project light onto the backdrop of the 32-by-20-foot stage during the evening's entertainment.

But, for Brunclik, the design highlight was illuminating the exterior of the building's brise-soleil — a massive wingspan-shaped shield designed to open and close during the day, shading the museum's interior. Brunclik used four VL3000 spot luminaires, painting the wings' surface with shades of amber, red and green. “The 3000s are just incredibly bright, and the color is magnificent out of them,” Brunclik says.

Hubbard adds that the VL3000s worked because they are “not only brighter than anything else out there, but they have great coverage … you can use a minimum number of fixtures to cover a large area.” For Clearwing, which donated all labor to the event, being able to use only four fixtures to light the entire brise-soleil — an expanse wider than the wingspan of a Boeing 747 — was key.

While the lights shone brightly at the black-tie event, according to gala coordinator Kim Muench, it was not just illumination but its integration that spelled success for the event's design. Clearwing's lighting “did not take away from the beauty and elegance of the museum,” she says. “It made a statement, but wasn't overpowering.”

Clearwing Productions 11101 W. Mitchell St., West Allis, WI; 414/258-6333;

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