Schenectady County

Tulip Fest planning a unique opening

A 15-foot steel tulip cocooned in a burning flame sculpture will float in Washington Park to kick of
PHOTOGRAPHER:

A 15-foot steel tulip cocooned in a burning flame sculpture will float in Washington Park to kick off the city’s 60th Tulip Festival.

Mayor Jerry Jennings announced the event, dubbed “Night Fire,” on Tuesday from City Hall and said it will be a unique art installation of environmental elements.

At sunset on May 9 — opening eve of Tulip Festival 2008 — “Night Fire” will bloom in Washington Park for what city officials say will be an “amazing two-hour experience.”

The steel tulip sculpture is being created by Albany artist Steven Rolf Kroeger and will be “cocooned” within an eco-friendly burnable structure created by artist Torrance Fish of Johnstown.

The sculptures will be set afloat onto Washington Park Lake and ignited, slowly unveiling the 15-foot tulip underneath.

The main piece will be positioned in front of the Lake House along with six lily pad sculptures, and each pad will hold its own small flame, creating a visual trail from the Lake House to the landmark foot bridge.

Fish’s work is usually mixed media with videos and he said Tuesday this project is quite a departure for him. “They are going to set my portion on fire. It will burn away a couple hours and reveal the tulip underneath.”

Fish heard about the Tulip Festival “Night Fire” project six weeks ago, submitted a proposal and was selected. He once made a ceremonial torch for the University at Albany. “It’s the closest I’ve gotten to something like this,” he said.

“I am still in the planning stages to make sure it burns long enough and safely,” said Fish.

In his day job, Fish works at the Tang Museum in Saratoga Springs as a preparator, installing the artwork or fabricating pedestals or tables for displays.

Fish said the “Night Fire” project was so different, it intrigued him to make something so large that burns. “It was the little boy in me that said: ‘Let’s burn it. How great.’ ”

“I think it will be quite a spectacular event — lily pads with flames, musical performances and burning the large sculpture and revealing the tulip. I think it will be pretty amazing,” said Fish.

The whole thing will be set to music by a live string quartet, performing an original composition by Denise Anderson, a College of Saint Rose graduate.

The “Night Fire” project was inspired by two nationally acclaimed events: Nevada’s Burning Man and Providence’s Water-Fire.

“Night Fire” will be up May 9, 10 and 11 for the three days of the Tulip Festival.

It will become the mark of a new tradition for Albany’s Tulip Festival and continue to be a community-inspired art project for years to come, said Jennings.

Fish’s burnable structure will burn just once but the 15-foot steel tulip will be used every year.

About 80,000 people attend the Tulip Festival each year. The number was higher last year because of Joan Jett’s show.

“We expect more people this year because the Tulip Festival will run three days: Friday, Saturday and Sunday,” said Melli Rose, public relations coordinator for the city of Albany’s special events.

Rose said everything is underwritten by donations. “This is all community partner-oriented, no taxpayer money is being spent,” she said.

The main sponsor is Toyota and several companies and individuals are contributing to produce the fire-art installation:

u Sarah Martinez, the executive director at Albany Center Gallery, conducted the search for artists;

u Robert Kivort, president of Kivort Steel, donated the steel for the project;

u Chad Reinemann and Robert Cartwright, of Stantec, are providing engineering consultation;

u Dr. Christine LaPlante, professor at Hudson Valley Community College, is providing buoyancy expertise to float the works on the lake;

u Hudson Valley Community College hydraulics and drainage students are designing and building bases to float the sculptures;

u Dr. Gary Zeller, an Academy Award-winning pyro-engineer, is mentoring the sculptors.

All products used to create the sculptures and fire-art are recyclable and/or environmentally safe, officials say.

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