Sometimes, the highest vantage point is not the best. Heavy cloud cover obscured the view of a small crowd that gathered Wednesday night atop the Crown Street Parking Garage adjacent to Roia Restaurant and Cafe to observe the first of four nights when a dazzling rainbow light display will fill the skies in honor of New Haven’s 375th birthday. They still had a fun night: the event doubled as a reception honor the international artist behind the rainbow, Yvette Mattern, and those who had a hand in bringing the work to New Haven.
Night Rainbow, a light sculpture of seven colors, is created with the use of of high specification lasers, and would have been seen for miles as it arched across the New Haven night sky. But like natural rainbows that require a confluence of weather conditions—raindrops and just the right angle of sunlight—the technologically manufactured rainbow also requires the proper weather conditions to be seen.
The rooftop group, which could see the rainbow flickering only at its base of projection on East Rock, began playfully clapping and chanting, “Believe in the rainbow!” trying to coax the light beams further into the sky. The group returned to the crowded celebration undaunted, knowing that the rainbow will have a reprise through April 27, from dusk to 1 a.m.
Those at the reception also took the “weather delay” in stride and enjoyed hearing from various speakers including the rainbow’s creator. The artist took a moment to dedicate the rainbow as a tribute to the children of Sandy Hook noting that the rainbow has a kind of healing power, representing both peace and hope.
Mattern said the rainbow concept was inspired by seeing a real rainbow over Walden Pond in Massachusetts one day. Though she was not a fan of rainbows in particular at the time, Mattern said, seeing that rainbow “completely changed my life. My mission from that point on was to create a work of art that was in the likeness of a rainbow and it took me on a journey.” (Click on the play arrow to watch her speech.)
Mattern noted that she was able to realize her vision with the advent of new high-technology lasers. While she describes her encounter with the Walden Pond rainbow as a being spiritual for her, she said she does not want to dictate what the Night Rainbow represents: “I want people to make their own judgements.”
Richard Kayne, husband of Site Projects board member Maria Kayne, did not take chances with regard to the weather. He brought along his own colorful rainbow, a hat that drew smiles for most of the evening. He said he has been “eating, breathing, and living” the family’s Site Projects involvement for almost ten years. The group is going to “shine a rainbow that celebrates New Haven’s birthday, but also brings diversity, hope and beauty to the area,” he said
Among the movers and shakers present were mayoral candidates Henry Fernandez and Justin Elicker. Fernandez said he was happy to be among those celebrating the “old and the new,” speaking of New Haven’s 375th birthday and the new technologies as represented by the laser light show. Candidate Elicker, noting the high visibility of the project, said “New Haven offers so much entertainment and cultural diversity—and the arts play a strong role. Something like this reminds the community at large about the exciting things going on in New Haven.”
The reception included remarks by Site Projects President Laura Clarke, who thanked “team” members and team retirees; parks department personnel, outgoing schools Superintendent Reggie Mayo; fellow school administrators Imma Canelli, Richard Therrien, Ken Mathews, and Nilda Morales; professors Matthew Griffiths and Marvin Chun; Board of Education President Carlos Torre—all part of an educational program and alliance of Site Projects with New Haven Public Schools.
State Department of Economic and Community Development Commissioner Cathy Smith spoke briefly, noting that art generates income for the state and “makes our city much more interesting and vibrant.” Her comments were followed by the presentation of a resolution to artist Matterns by Westville Alderman Sergio Rodriguez, who’s running for city clerk.
Site Projects recommends “actively seeking out the optimal viewing points from East Rock to West Haven and over Long Island Sound.” On the particularly overcast evening of the opening reception, some of the most compelling views were from the grounds of the New Haven Green, where steeples intersected with rainbow arches and clouds shifted just enough to offer a glimpse of what is yet to come.