One of Mississippi’s grandest mansions will host state’s first annual light-based art exhibition, festival next weekend

Published 6:06 am Sunday, November 14, 2021

Allumer Natchez, the first arts festival of its kind in the State of Mississippi, will literally shine light on a place co-founder Stacy Conde holds near and dear to her heart, she said.

Mississippi’s first annual light-based art exhibition and festival lights up the grounds of Dunleith Historic Inn Nov. 19 through 21, from 6 to 10 p.m. nightly.

The event is free and open to the public, however, encompasses food vendors, a Maker’s Market and several cash bars.  Sponsors and VIP ticket holders also gain access to the VIP Lounge sponsored by Cathead with two complimentary cocktails and hors d’oeuvres.

All event proceeds will go towards the production of next year’s exhibition, which creators are already in the process of curating, Conde said.

“Allumer Natchez,” which means “to light up Natchez” in French, “is an art exhibition and festival which uses light as an artistic medium and the City of Natchez is its canvas,” Conde said. “Each year the curatorial theme of the exhibition will change. Our vision is to grow the event annually, attracting artists and visitors from around the world while contributing to arts programming and arts education locally.”

The curatorial theme of Allumer Natchez this year is “Rebirth,” which is inspired by the dramatic renewal of Natchez.

Co-founders Conde, owner of Conde Contemporary in Natchez, and Lindsay Glatz, who serves as Creative Director for Arts New Orleans, are presenting nine light-based installations as part of the exhibition.

Glatz is also the creative director of LUNA Fête, an annual festival of light, art, and technology in New Orleans which attracts more than 100,000 visitors each year, Conde said.

This year’s signature projection, also titled Rebirth, will animate the facade of Dunleith in color and light.

Some of the other installations on display include: “Extinct in the Wild,” which animates Dunleith’s greenhouse with an immersive walkthrough experience by artist Courtney Egan’s signature botanical projections; “ALVEARE Luminoso,” an illuminated, suspended hive-like structure created by Luba Zygarewicz, a Chilean-Ukranian artist based out of Mandeville, La.; “Papillion,” the French word for butterfly, ceated by Milwaukee-based artist Chelsey Noel; “The Wishing Tree,” by Arts DANU created specifically for Dunleith to showcase an ancient magnolia tree grounded by a glowing cave, beckoning viewers to explore the cavern; “Reawakening,” featuring awakened spirits, ghostly shapes that shimmer across the lawn of Dunleith, created by Kaiser, a Midwest-born artist and sculptor.

Additionally, Mississippi poet Catherine Pierce has written six to seven lines on the Rebirth exhibit to be projected on the ground at Dunleith, Conde said.

Pierce, who lives in Starkville, is the author of four books of poems: Danger Days (2020); The Tornado is the World (2016), The Girls of Peculiar (2012), and Famous Last Words (2008), all from Saturnalia Books. Each of her most recent three books won the Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters Poetry Prize. Her work has appeared in The Best American Poetry, the New York Times, American Poetry Review, The Nation, the Academy of American Poets Poem-a-Day series, and elsewhere, and has received two Pushcart Prizes. Kids will also enjoy a free light project hosted by Mississippi School of Folk Art on site, Conde said.

Conde and her family moved to her grandmother’s native hometown of Natchez from Miami amid COVID-19 lockdowns in 2020, she said.

“Natchez holds a special place in my heart,” she said. “It has since I was a little girl. The people, the architecture, the river — at the very core of every positive thing I try to do in Natchez is in gratitude and celebration of the region that gave me my grandmother.”

Conde said her vision is to see the festival grow to encompass all of Downtown Natchez in the years to come and be an economic driver for the community.

“Originally, we planned to exhibit on Main Street leading down to the bluff, but with the Christmas decorations going up early this year, we decided to move the event over to Dunleith,” she said. “The plan is to expand the campus of Allumer Natchez annually. … Events like this are economic drivers. We want to see residents and businesses throughout the city benefit. … Our focus is on creating something beautiful and inclusive that all of Natchez can be proud of, a light-based exhibition and festival that will eventually attract people from all over the world.”

Natchez Mayor Dan Gibson has also been outspoken in his support for the project.

“I would like to extend the city’s support for the unique opportunity of displaying Allumer Natchez,” he said. “Our city strongly supports these types of projects that will improve the quality of life for our citizens and community. We welcome this initiative.”

For more information or to purchase VIP tickets, visit AllumerNatchez.com.

Allumer Natchez is a project of Conde Contemporary art gallery in Downtown Natchez and is made possible, in part, by grants from: Home Bank, Visit Natchez, Visit Mississippi, Allstate, Entergy, Country Roads Magazine, Listen Up Y’All Media, Concordia Bank, Crye Leike Stedman Realty, UMB, Hampton Inn and Suites, the Natchez Garden Club and with the support of Historic Natchez Foundation, Community Alliance, Natchez-Adams County Chamber of Commerce and The City of Natchez.