JP Observer: Lights, Projector, Action! Dynamic Laser Light show Coming to Centre/South

By Sandra Storey / Special to the Gazette

In some countries, they pretty much skipped putting landlines
in people’s homes and went straight to using cell phones.Similarly, Jamaica Plain’s Centre/South business district has skipped the typical banners or lights on light poles along the corridor and is jumping ahead this year to sponsor a big laser light show for the holidays—called “Peace, Love, and Jamaica Plain.”

The combined efforts that are leading to this high-tech solution to the district’s decades of decoration struggles are a fabulous example of local community cooperation,leadership, creativity and persistence all coming together.

Thanks to a broad coalition of community organizations and individuals, led by JP Centre/South Main Streets (JPCSMS), with support from the Jamaica Plain Business and Professional Association (JPBAPA), a dynamic light show using what’s called “projection mapping” will display a holiday spectacle every evening on the building at 670 Centre where City Feed is located. Plans call for the moving display to run from 4:30 to 9 p.m. starting, it’s hoped, in time for the Holiday Stroll and Tree Lighting on Friday,
Dec. 6.

Exactly what the moving design in light and color will look like is being determined by MASARY Studios in the South End based on community input. According to its website, three people form a “team of artists awakening built and natural environments through live music performance and video projection mapping. By unlocking the hidden possibilities of an urban landscape or space, MASARY’s works are at once a performance, a dissection of architecture, and an immersive visual spectacle.”
A small group of business people, including some who have been working on business district decorations over the years, sat down late last month to come up with suggestions for designs that JPCSMS Executive Director Ginger Brown passed onto artist Sam Okerstrom-Lang from MASURY.
“We’re making it about Jamaica Plain,” Brown hinted this week. “We wanted to make sure it is inclusive and reflects the diversity of our community.” Brown has persistently researched decorations
possibilities since she became director in 2017. “The holiday decorations in 2019 promise to be incredibly exciting,” Michael Reiskind said in an email last week. Reiskind, president of the JPCSMS board and secretary of JPBAPA, has worked a lot on holiday decorations over the years.

“With a laser light show right in the middle of the business district that celebrates the best of our Jamaica Plain neighborhood, everybody can be proud of our community and the businesses that anchor it,” he added.
Initially, the cost sounds high—$36,000. But there’s good news in that number. It covers a 10,000+ lumen laser projector, protective casing, a computer, and design of a projection show. The projector can be used year after year, and new designs are relatively inexpensive to create for it. More standard decorations can cost twice as much, according to Brown, due to annual installation costs, and they have to be replaced often due to weather and wear. Various sources have already contributed $26,000 mostly through a crowd-funding campaign in early fall that allowed the project to get started.

JPCSMS is actively seeking another $10,000 in donations to make up the difference. JPBAPA, which has overseen decorations for years, put money from dues for decorations in a special account over the past four years, and $5,000 of that money is going to the light show.

JPBAPA will also continue to help defray costs of decorations on four non-profit member and city properties on Centre/South and hold the annual business decorating contest, with cash prizes awarded to 11 business winners.

Boston Main Streets Foundation helped motivate the project
by agreeing to match $5,000 raised from a crowd-funding campaign,
and that is included in the money on hand. Bank of America made an in-kind donation.

Many local businesses and individuals donated. See jpcentresouth.
com for a list. But some people didn’t have a chance to donate yet. Their contributions are still welcome.“JP Centre/South Main Streets is so grateful to the entire community which has contributed, particularly the JP Business and Professional Association and their members,” Brown said in an email. “Everyone’s support thus far has shown us people want to see this.

Personally, I think this can be the kind of thing that creates
fond childhood memories of the holiday season. It’s exciting to share that with the whole community.”

The technological leap to a laser show was inspired in part by physical limitations on traditional decorations in the Centre/South business district that have prevented the traditional way of decorating here.In Boston, unlike Brookline, for example, taxpayers don’t pay for business district decorations and their installation. Here, local businesses and groups manage the decorations and raise the funds to create and install them.
Making decorations difficult for years in JP is that the light poles along Centre/South Streets, unlike in many other neighborhoods,
do not have electrical outlets on them. Despite efforts to get new light poles over the years, none seem to be coming soon.

Solar powered lights are expensive and bulky. And, it bears repeating, decorating light poles in traditional ways would be very expensive. Those types of decorations take up a lot of storage space, too. Some experts say lights or banners along the streets get lost to viewers’ eyes anyway, as they blend in with the “clutter” of signs. other poles, and buildings. There’s no chance a big light show won’t get noticed at night!

The cooperative efforts to solve the decorations problem and bring fun and support to the business district are unrestricted. Everyone can still help. For more information about how to support the show, email Brown at [email protected]

Sandra Storey is founder and former publisher and editor of the Jamaica Plain Gazette. She is on the board of the Jamaica Plain Business and Professional Association as a self-employed writer, teacher and poet and works on holiday decorations there.

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