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8 Nights, 8 Windows Celebrates Hanukkah By Lighting Up Storefronts With Public Art

Gianna Stewart's “Capturing the Sunrise.". (Courtesy)

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As the sun sets each evening of the eight nights of Hanukkah this year, a sun will rise in the window of Cambridge Trust Company on Tremont Street in Boston.

“I’m thinking about time and a light that’s always there in the absence of light,” explains Gianna Stewart, the Boston artist who created “Capturing the Sunrise,” real-time videos of sunrises over water (sometimes rotated upside-down) that she’s been recording near the New England Aquarium, at the wharves near the Institute of Contemporary Art, from the Mass. Ave. Bridge.

“A sunrise is a sunset somewhere else,” Stewart says. “It’s not a singular moment. It’s always something that’s going on. … A light that’s always perpetuating.”

The video installation is part of “8 Nights, 8 Windows,” Hanukkah-themed public art installations in storefronts across Boston from Dec. 6 to 14.

A mock-up of how Gianna Stewart's “Capturing the Sunrise" will look at Cambridge Trust Company. (Courtesy)

A mock-up of how Gianna Stewart’s “Capturing the Sunrise” will look at Cambridge Trust Company. (Courtesy)

“The heart of Hanukkah lies in placing the light of the menorah in a window for all to share,” write the organizers — New Center NOW (the under-40 programming group of the Jewish nonprofit, The New Center for Arts & Culture), Combined Jewish Philanthropies of Greater Boston, the Boston Jewish Film Festival and Boston Jewish Music Festival. With the project, they aim to “brighten the Boston holiday season with the essence of the Festival of Light: miracle, illumination, and innovation.”

Hanukkah, as tradition has it, originated two millennia ago when Jews, lead by the Maccabees, rebelled against oppressive Syrian Greeks and threw them out of Judea. But when they tried to rededicate the Temple in Jerusalem (Hanukkah means dedication in Hebrew), they found that the Greek army had profaned the oil used to keep the Temple’s eternal flame alight. One jar of oil was found that remained pure, but only enough for one day. However when they used it, it miraculously burned for eight days — enough time for them to make more.

“8 Nights, 8 Windows,” says Laura Mandel, director of New Center for Arts & Culture, is “our attempt to bring the best of Jewish culture to the city … to bring our own unique way of illuminating the city.”

A jury chose local artists — some Jewish, some not (like Stewart) — to fill windows with art at the Downtown Crossing Roche Brothers, Fire + Ice, Pavement Coffee House on Gainsborough Street, United South End Settlements, the West End Museum, Boomerangs Special Edition on Washington Street, Milk Street Café, Boston Center for the Arts’ Artist Studio Building, and Cambridge Trust bank on Tremont Street. A few of the windows will be on display day and night, most will only be lit up after dark.

A sketch for Fish McGill and Saul Balzman’s “HueMenorah” that will be at Gainsborough Street, United South End Settlements, the West End Museum, Boomerangs Special Edition. (Courtesy)

A sketch for Fish McGill and Saul Balzman’s “HueMenorah” that will be at Gainsborough Street, United South End Settlements, the West End Museum, Boomerangs Special Edition. (Courtesy)

Matt Brand’s “Luminous Miracle” uses rotating lenses at United South End Settlements to project images of Jewish historical figures that “will morph into wisps of lights.” Fish McGill and Saul Balzman’s “HueMenorah” at Boomerangs evokes the menorah with nine screens featuring a rotating selection of selfies posted to Instagram or Twitter with the hashtag #HueMenorah. Like a traditional menorah, Mandel says, this is “putting the light of the candles and the faces of the community in the window.” Susannah Lawrence will fill the windows of Milk Street Café with giant video portraits of people from the community.

The pop-up exhibitions are complimented by a series of events, including a free evening of art activities and live music dubbed the “Shamash Event” (the Shamash is the light that lights the rest of the candles) at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts on Dec. 9th.

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