“Traditionally, in a place like Crosstown Concourse, you might think we’d have a really large Christmas tree. But since it’s Concourse, that’s exactly what we’re not going to do. We had to dream up our version of holiday lighting and decorations,” says Crosstown Concourse co-leader Todd Richardson.
That version manifested as a massive lighting installation in the shape of a holiday tree. The “tree” is made up of 7,500 bulbs on 76 lighting strands (measuring 8,000 feet) that are gathered and hung from the trusses in the Central Atrium. The strands drape down to the third floor, fanning out at the bottom to create the base of the tree shape. A large disco ball (one meter in diameter) in the center represents the star at the top of the tree.
“When visitors walk in the front door, our hope is that they’ll look up and realize they’re under the tree, and, therefore, everybody is the present,” Todd says.
The idea came from Christopher Miner and his Crosstown Arts team, who designed and constructed the lighting installation. It took 22 volunteers (and a number of Crosstown Arts staff) two days to screw each of those 7,500 individual lights into the strands, as well as some creative riggers to suspend everything from the 11th floor.
“We started this project on short notice so our call for volunteers was last-minute,” says Madelyn Altman, volunteer coordinator at Crosstown Arts. “Over the course of two days, people stopped by and lent a hand when they could. Some stayed for half an hour; some stayed for the afternoon. Honestly, the work was daunting in the beginning.
“By the afternoon of the second day, with the end in sight, the mood of the volunteers became jubilant, especially when someone found that last box of lightbulbs we needed to complete the tree. We wouldn't have completed this in time for the scheduled celebration without those wonderful volunteers,” she says.
The switch was flipped on the lighting installation on Tuesday, Dec. 12, during a holiday party in the Central Atrium. A crowd of hundreds gathered in the atrium around 5:30 pm as Prime Cut, a Memphis-based contemporary jazz/R&B cover band, played a mix of holiday songs and pop hits while jookers from the MJ Urban Ballet performed. Concourse restaurants — Lucy J’s Bakery, So Nuts & Confections, and French Truck Coffee — handed out cookies, popcorn and hot cocoa, while Curb Market and Cheryl Pesce The Lifestyle Store sold holiday gift baskets and ornaments at pop-up shops.
At 5:45 p.m., the main atrium lights were shut off, and the theme from 2001: A Space Odyssey filled the room, as guests gazed up at the sparkling disco ball, awaiting the flip of the switch. At the song’s final, iconic crescendo, the holiday lights sparked on as the crowd oohed and aahed.
The lighting installation will remain up throughout the holiday season. Additionally, Church Health has installed a 13-foot holiday tree in the West Atrium, and wayfinding boxes throughout the building are decorated to look like presents. Artist Eric Clausen has created a couple of pop-up holiday photo booth areas – one in the West Atrium and one in the East Atrium under the spiral staircase.
“It was a perfect way to kick off the holiday season and we’re grateful for such a wonderful turnout,” says Todd. “Our hope is that folks will continue to enjoy the lighting installation when they visit Concourse to eat and drink on nights and weekends.”