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HIDDEN GEM: Twilight Epiphany Skyspace at Rice University

Artist James Turrell uses art as his medium in this publicly accessible art on the Rice campus.

HOUSTON — This year, one of the most prominent pieces of public art on the Rice University campus celebrates a big milestone. Artist James Turrell's Twilight Epiphany Skyspace opened 10 years ago.

"Some artists might work with paint on canvas, others with bronze and sculpture, James Turrell’s innovation is that he perceives light as the medium of the artwork," explains Alison Weaver, director of the Moody Center of the Arts at Rice University. "It’s ineffable, it’s not tangible, but it’s visible and it’s really interesting in terms of thinking about how we perceive our environment and the natural world."

Twice a day, you can see the artist’s work on display. The LED light show begins about 40 minutes before sunrise and 10 minutes before sunset each day.

"What you’ll experience as the light shifts in the environment surrounding the Skyspace, there is a specially programmed artwork that projects onto the ceiling of the structure and the colors of those lights slowly change at the same time as the sun either rises or sets," Weaver says.

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Only the occasional bird disrupts the illusion that the sky is part of the ceiling, changing color and saturation constantly in the transition between dark and light. 

"The perception that you have, I think, makes you see the world differently," says Weaver.

Turrell created more than 85 Skyspaces all over the world. Some are in existing buildings while some are their own structure. Many have a square aperture, though others are round or oval. Twilight Epiphany is the only two-story Skyspace and is also the most accessible to the public. 

"For us, it’s an incredibly important way to welcome the public to the campus and to our community," Weaver says. "It’s not inside a locked building or inside a museum space, it’s outdoors on the campus of the university where we hope people will feel welcome to come and explore."

Another important element of the Skyspace is its co-location with the Shepherd School of Music, allowing it to inspire innovative combinations of music and visual art. 

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"We do activate the Skyspace occasionally with special compositions of music and performances of dance," says Weaver.

One such performance is coming up on April 22 and 23.

"We have invited the choreographer Karole Armitage to come and design a special performance in the Skyspace," Weaver shares. "She’s bringing her dance troupe from New York, but we also have 20 volunteers from the Houston community who will be dancing together with her company in this special environment."

The performance is free and open to the public, although space will be available on a first-come, first-served basis. 

For more information about Rice University's Twilight Epiphany Space, click here.

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Do you have a hidden gem we should check out? Let us know by emailing Brandi Smith at bsmith@khou.com!

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