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Keepers of the Light: Volunteer Facilitators of James Turrell’s Skyspace

Skyspace "The Way of Color


Skyspace "The Way of Color," James Turrell.

Skyspace “The Way of Color,” James Turrell.

Located on the scenic hillside where the Art Trail meets the City of Bentonville’s Crystal Bridges Trail, James Turrell’s Skyspace installation, The Way of Color, was one of the first incarnations of Crystal Bridges. Opened well before construction of the Museum itself was complete, the Skyspace served as an ambassador to the Crystal Bridges community, providing a taste of great things to come.  Soon after the Skyspace opened, a dedicated corps of trained volunteer Skyspace Facilitators began guiding visitors in discussing, understanding, and interpreting their experiences in this innovative art installation.

“I often use the word ‘amazing’ about the Skyspace,” said Skyspace Facilitator Gloria Danielson.  “Amazed best describes what I feel and what I observe our visitors feeling as we experience the creative genius of James Turrell in Crystal Bridges’ Skyspace. It is illusion that is reality; magic based on science and imagination exhibited in a tangible form. It is something that everyone, no matter the age or education or background, experiences with wonderment and appreciation for Mr. Turrell’s talent.  We are very fortunate to have a Skyspace here, as there are not many in the world. It is often a spiritual journey for some of the observers.”

About Turrell and the Skyspace

Inside the Skyspace.

Inside the Skyspace.

The Skyspace is a naked-eye viewing chamber that allows guests to view the sky through a round oculus in the roof. During daylight hours the Skyspace offers a place of quiet contemplation. Each morning and evening, in conjunction with sunrise and sunset, a programmed LED light display occurs inside the Skyspace. Changing colors against the Skyspace ceiling cause changes in our perception of the color of the sky viewed through the oculus.

James Turrell is an artist whose medium is light itself.  His Skyspaces, found in cities and countries around the world, create for viewers an experience of light, color, and space unlike any other.  First-time viewers often begin the experience feeling puzzled, not knowing what the Skyspace structure is, what its purpose is, or what to expect.  Gradually their puzzlement changes to fascination, wonder… even awe, as the artist deftly manipulates their perception of depth and color—seeming to manipulate the very nature of reality.

“Informed by his training in perceptual psychology and a childhood fascination with light, Turrell began experimenting with light as a medium in southern California in the mid-1960’s….  (The artist) often cites the Parable of Plato’s Cave to introduce the notion that we are living in a reality of our own creation, subject to our human sensory limitations as well as contextual and cultural norms. This is evident in Turrell’s over eighty Skyspaces…. The simple act of witnessing the sky from within a Turrell Skyspace…reveals how we internally create the colors we see and thus, our perceived reality.”      —

About the Skyspace Facilitators

Skyspace Facilitators gather at Crystal Bridges' Coffee Bar with educator Sara Segerlin (at left).

Skyspace Facilitators gather at Crystal Bridges’ Coffee Bar with educator Sara Segerlin (at left).

“As an educator, it’s inspiring to work with such adventurous individuals willing to guide a unique set of circumstances on art, space and people,” said Senior Educator Sara Segerlin, who has been working with Skyspace Facilitors since the beginning. “Since the inception of the Skypsace Discussion program two years ago, we grew as a team. We’ve learned much about The Way of Color’s place at Crystal Bridges—learning from the perceptions of our guests, ourselves, and the inner workings of the Skyspace (lighting, computer glitches, security, weather)! The facilitator group has been the eyes and ears for the Skyspace, and their feedback and enthusiasm has helped us understand how the artwork continues to attract and inspire the public, rain or shine!”

DSC_0123“The word that best describes the Skyspace, for me, is enriching,” said Skyspace Facilitator Tim Crane. “This enrichment is why I like volunteering at Skyspace. My life has been enriched intellectually and personally. The opportunity to expand my knowledge, meet and interact with the Crystal Bridges staff, fellow guides and our guests, means very much to me.”

New at the Skyspace For 2014, we’re offering a new palette of Skyspace programming and opportunities:

  • Offer Skyspace Discussions once-per-month on the last Wednesday night of the month.
  • Increase Sunrise experiences to start in the spring (Dates: 4/30, 5/28, 6/21, 7/19, 8/16, 9/20, 10/18)
  • Offer quarterly Skyspace Expert Talks by invited speakers that delve into a variety of subjects (optics, color theory, illusion, architecture, science of the atmosphere, psychology, perception, etc.).  Expert Talks will take place on the first Friday of the month, throughout the summer.
  • Offer occasional private group tour opportunities, led by a facilitator as requested by various museum departments.
  • Develop Solstice Night based around the Skyspace with operational support from facilitators
  • Offer Skyspace Trainings once a year in early February.  Veteran Facilitators are more than welcome to contribute their learning on James Turrell and the Skyspace, as well as to stimulate conversation among new trainees.

Please contact [email protected]  if you’re interested in training to become a new Skyspace Facilitator.

Linda DeBerry
Senior Copy Editor / Publications Manager

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