Turning on the lights

Clayton Center for the Arts installs glass chandeliers

Chandeliers hang above a lobby area at the Clayton Center for the Arts.

Photo by Leslie Karnowski

Chandeliers hang above a lobby area at the Clayton Center for the Arts.

Brian Pittman inspects an orb for the chandelier he designed at the Clayton Center for the Arts.

Photo by Leslie Karnowski

Brian Pittman inspects an orb for the chandelier he designed at the Clayton Center for the Arts.

It was bound to happen.

The 16 chandeliers hung this week in the Clayton Center for the arts contain more than 100 hand-blown glass orbs each. The orbs had to be hung individually as designer Brian Pittman supervised.

The glass orbs were placed on a table, then strung onto individual lines hanging from canopy light fixture. Without warning, one of the orbs fell to the floor.

There was a collective wince as everyone waited for the delicate-looking bubble to shatter. That didn’t happen.

Pittman, a Knoxville artist and architect with McCarty, Hospale McCarty, said he borrowed the basic concept of putting light in a canopy of hanging orbs, but designed everything else about the chandeliers. The original image he used for inspiration had globes that weren’t what he wanted.

“They were very delicate and small. We needed something five times as big, and we wanted it more massive and sturdier looking,” he said.

So Pittman had Paul Clements of Lynchburg create hand-blown orbs that were stronger.

The orbs vary in size and shape. “We wanted a lot of different textures and shapes. We were going for consistency through inconsistency,” he said. “The more inconsistent we were, the more consistent they appeared. There is a cohesiveness to the orbs.”

Pittman said throughout the process sometimes lighting fixtures and other details of a building get cut because of budget constraints. “Even on this project we had to cut lots of decorative lighting, but everyone said this isn’t getting cut,” he said. “It was like a team effort. We had to find a way that this stayed in the budget. We cut every else so we could keep these.”

Clements said he made the orbs about two years ago. “It was a bit daunting to see the scale of it. It’s no problem to make a few items but we made about 1,700 glass balls. It was a daunting task,” he said. “It took a month making them seven days a week. I utilized five different studios in Massachusetts, and I employed about 15 people. It was a big job.”

Public relations and marketing director John Cherry said the hanging of the chandeliers is an important milestone. “We’ve been looking forward to this,” said Cherry. “It’s an artistic element within itself, and this whole complex is about art. Having works of art hanging as functional fixtures added to the artistic feel of the building.”

Cherry said the Clayton Center for the Arts’ first public event is Feb. 14. The Maryville High School orchestra will perform their Valentine’s Day concert in the main hall.

“That will be the first time people will actually be able to sit in here and see a performance,” he said. “We’re also excited about Feb. 24. The Kennedy Center Theater for Young Audiences is bringing a children’s theater musical called ‘Chasing George Washington.’”

Cherry said there will be two shows, one at 9 a.m. and another at 12:30 p.m. “We have more than 1,800 school children scheduled to see those shows,” he said. “We’re still accepting reservations for the 12:30 show.”

Tickets are $5 per student. For information, call Cherry at 865-981-8263.

The grand opening for the center is the last week in March.

“It’s a five-day celebration of the arts,” Cherry said.

On Thursday March 25, the Maryville College Concert Choir will be in the Main Hall and on Friday, March 26, country singer Jo Dee Messina will perform in the Main Hall. “Saturday the 27th is the grand opening gala - a celebration of East Tennessee Arts,” he said.

Singers Delores Ziegler and John Wesley Wright will be performing at the gala and David Keith will be master of ceremonies. The Maryville College band and orchestra and the Appalachian Ballet Company will perform as well as several other arts groups, Cherry said.

On Sunday, March 28, Richard and John Contiguglia will perform. “They are concert pianists who will do a piano duo concert in the Recital Hall Building at 2 p.m. They’ll be doing classical works on our two Steinways,” he said.

On Monday, the final day of that grand opening week, Ziegler and Wright will hold a joint recital. “At the same time, we’ll have the Banff Film Festival from Banff, Canada, in the main hall,” Cherry said.

In April, Ralph Stanley and the Clinch Mountain Boys along with Cherryholmes are coming.

On April 24 and 25, the Appalachian Ballet will be doing “Peter Pan and Other Works.” From April 29 through May 2, Maryville College theater department will present “Our Town” in the flex theater. On April 30, a group called All in the House, a five-man acapella group out of Boston, will be in the Main Hall.

On May 14, Wood and Strings, a puppet theater out of Nashville, will do a school performance, a puppetry workshop and an evening show.

The center also is launching a new website - www.Claytonartscenter.com where people can learn about upcoming acts and buy tickets.

“It will have a completely new look and feel. It’s more artsy, and there’s more to it,” Cherry said.

Cherry said people can buy tickets online, at the box office or by calling 865-981-8590. Tickets for spring events go on sale at 10 a.m. on Feb. 5.

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