The way Ryan Doherty sees it, things are looking up for his customers these days.
No, the founder of Corner Bar Management isn’t taking a rose-tinted-glasses view of business during and after the coronavirus pandemic. But still, he’s looking skyward — especially when it comes to two of his newest bars, Lucky Day downtown and Oddwood at Area15.
“I’ve stuffed all the walls full of art,” Doherty said in reference to Lucky Day, which opened this summer. “Now I’m obsessed with doing art that you have to look up at.”
That would be an installation of 15,000 lights in various colors and configurations.
“It’s amazing,” he said. “I sit in the front of the room all the time and I watch people walk in, and you can’t do anything but immediately look up. You can be there for eight hours and not see the same program running for the lights. It’s just fun to watch everyone stare at the ceiling.”
The lights were a project of artist Keegan Olton.
“What excited me about it was the opportunity to create really immersive installation art that’s mixed media,” Olton said. “And for a much broader audience than I’m capable of getting in a gallery or a private showing.”
“I think our goal is to have people sit inside a piece of art instead of just having a piece of art that’s hanging on the wall,” Doherty said. “You feel like you’re surrounded by it.”
Doherty said he conceived of the project after many years of admiring elaborate holiday decorations in bars. Then he approached Olton.
“I said, ‘Well, I don’t do Christmas lights, but I could do something much, much better,’ ” Olton said. “I immediately saw the opportunity to create something that I think is really important in sculpture today — a seemingly integrated experience with no pedestal, no picture frame. The viewers don’t know they’re coming into an art gallery and experiencing cutting-edge, contemporary artwork.”
Cutting edge is right. By way of explanation, Olton launches into a description that includes terms such as “custom-printed circuit boards” and “individually addressable LEDs with the greatest number of colors and dimming capabilities.”
From 7 p.m., when Lucky Day opens, until 11 p.m. or midnight, the lights are run in patterns that Doherty describes as “like a dream state.” After that, the lights start responding to the music that is playing.
“Although there’s an unlimited number of patterns running, we don’t know what pattern’s going to run,” he said. “Depending on the song, this thing will shift in different directions. Waves that go up and down and left and right switch directions on the beat, and you don’t know what’s going to happen.”
Doherty said the effects are more dramatic with, for example, bass-heavy music.
“The more dynamic the music is, the more intense the changes in the light will be,” Olton said. “One is responding to the other.”
At Corner Bar Management’s Oddwood at Area 15, Color + Light executed the lighting effect. That one has 50,000 lights, on 5,000 leaves of a giant tree.
He said he thinks the Lucky Day project is unique.
“It takes a really tremendous level of commitment to map the pixels,” he said. “This is really one of a kind.”