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Image Arts to light up the community year round

By Brenda Molina-Navidad

The multi-coloured lights that illuminate the outside of the Image Arts Building (IMA) will now be interactive all year round.

Rye Lights, a committee founded in 2015, plans to create more community engagement with the building by giving students an opportunity to request colours pertaining to special events, like mental health awareness week and Pride. The project is expected to be completed by September 2017.

An interactive component was first incorporated into the IMA in 2014 as part of a new media exhibition, created by Dave Colangelo — a former graduate student and member of the Rye Lights committee — and artist Patricio Davila. The project, In the Air, Tonight, raised awareness about homelessness by changing the building colours from blue to red when tweets included the hashtag #homelessness.

The building features 727 external glass panels. Behind each panel are two strips of LED light modules, making for 1,400 LEDs in total, according to Colangelo. The panels and lights are connected to a computer system that coordinates the display.

“This is becoming a real form of communication and engagement,” said Colangelo. “Other buildings around the world are coming to that realization. It just took a bit of time to get the right pieces at Ryerson, but at this point we are at full speed ahead.”

The IMA has been compared to the CN Tower, the Empire State Building and the Calgary Tower, all of which have exterior changing lights. Colangelo refers to them as  “digital monuments.”

These monuments can foster communication between communities. After the 2015 Paris attacks, the CN Tower changed its lights to blue, white and red for France.

According to interim president Mohamed Lachemi, the new project will not cost anything because the technology is already in place.

“The IMA is a world class gallery. It attracts visitors from the city but also elsewhere,” said Lachemi. “The idea now is to really use [this technology] for our benefit … it’s part of our mandate as a city builder.”

Michael Forbes, co-chairperson of the Rye Lights committee and interim director of communications at Ryerson, said Ryerson is working on a system where students can submit their light requests for specific dates.

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