2018 Artist Spotlight: Visual Artist Andrew Kaletta Lights Up Brite Winter Workshops

By Rachel Hunt

The transformation of space has always fascinated Andrew Kaletta. Whether satisfying a director's design dreams, rigging atmospheric lights in a trendy restaurant or sewing large scale inflatable structures on the job, the craftsman turned fine artist has done it all in the name of place-making. His work with Brite Winter has been no different; Kaletta's light sculptures have imaginatively morphed the visual experience of visitors to the event for the past three years.

"A good design or decorative element doesn't necessarily draw attention. It helps to create an environment that you enjoy," Kaletta says over lunch in a communal space at 78th Street Studios where he's a groundskeeper. Previous to this gig, Kaletta worked for Cleveland Public Theater helping to execute productions and events like Pandemonium and serving as educational director during the early years of Ingenuity Festival.

"I started doing theatrical lighting and enjoying the ability to sculpt an environment with light. It's dynamic; lighting can be synced with the music or tempo of the dialogue. You can create dramatic moments." Kaletta takes this outlook off the stage and applies it to creating visual spectacles in every day life; "I took those ideas and tried to play with color in a home setting."

A commission from Eric Williams to create indoor fixtures for flagship restaurant Momocho seemed like a sign that his practice was going in the right direction. "I love warm colors. I want to create a place where subconsciously you feel good," he pauses and points to the ceiling. "I think we live in fluorescent and bad lighting more than we really should. We should be conscious of what kind of visual environment we're in and how we can adjust it."

At Brite Winter, the elements Kaletta creates are about subverting expectations of what outdoor environments during this time of year look like. You might think you're walking into just another event tent, but once inside you'll be surprised at what you see. "This year they're mostly outer space themed," he says. "I'm working on making big stalactites that'll look like ice cubes. We're trying to utilize the architecture of the tent to make these hanging lights."

During weekly workshops taking place at the Hamilton Collaborative - 5401 Hamilton Avenue, community artists will lead volunteers in making the components to be installed on the West Bank February 24th. On Thursdays from 5:30-8:00 pm and Saturdays from 1:30-5:30 pm, anyone with the ability to pick up a paintbrush can come out and learn tools and tips to create the fabric and paper mache structures of Kaletta's design.

"We work with wheat paste and glue, so maybe you'll be able to help us make our mix, or play with fabric that I'm pre-stretching to make the stalactites a little more structured. Hopefully you come away with how you could do this yourself." He assures that no matter where your skill level falls when it comes to arts and crafts, that you'll be appreciated. "I don't want people to feel like they're just making something for me," he adds. "They can see the how the pieces and parts come together and realize that they're part of the whole."

Working with Brite Winter often reminds Kaletta of his early days as an artist in Cleveland because of the grassroots nature of the event and its strong impact on the community as a whole. "People were doing art mostly because they had to, like it came from somewhere and they needed to get it out. Now there's this illusion that we can make money off our art, which is cool, but in some weird ways I think it diverts the question of why you're making art in the first place."

The purpose of Kaletta's artwork for the event is clear: to engage makers in the community and encourage creativeness while providing an artful experience. "We're not making any social commentary, that's totally not the focus. The focus is to create a fun and lively environment that can cover a big ass space in hopes that people will have a good time in the winter."