Night Lights Denver has 3-D Christmas projects through December downtown

If a stranger walks up to you on the 16th Street Mall and offers you a pair of glasses, take them.

“I was handing them out by the plaza (at Skyline Park) and it was amazing to see people’s reactions when they put them on,” said David Moke, director of programming at the Denver Theatre District, of the 3-D Night Lights Denver show that opened Dec. 1. “Once people look at the 3-D art they might realize this technology makes other stuff look cool, too, with reds popping out and purples recessing a bit.”

Color values aside, Night Lights Denver is blending holiday dazzle and a trusty, 3-D technique in the show, which runs through the end of December. Launched in 2019, the permanent Night Lights installation has already featured dozens of custom, projection-mapped artworks on the Daniels & Fischer Tower, at 16th and Arapahoe streets, from local and international artists.

And as with past shows, no 3-D glasses are required to view it as the artists intended. But this new show takes advantage of ChromaDepth, which works differently than traditional 3-D glasses, Moke said. Images tuned for ChromaDepth lenses appear normal to the naked eye, with no offset layers of red and blue. But with a pair of the 20,000 or so complimentary frames, the projections jump out and grab viewers — especially the wide-eyed children Moke watched during testing.

“We can’t compete, nor do I want to, with Camp Christmas (in Lakewood), Blossoms of Light (Denver Botanic Gardens) or Denver Zoo Lights,” Moke said. “But we have a unique experience, it’s outdoors, and it’s the kind of thing that continues regardless of the weather. People can go downtown and make it a night if they’re seeing lights at the City & County Building or the Mall.”

Night Lights Denver 3-D compiles work from artists Chris Bagley, Kim Shively, Koko Bayer, Eileen Roscina and Estee Fox. Meow Wolf Denver is sponsoring the glasses hand-out.

The show runs on a 10-12 minute loop, seven days a week, from 5 p.m. to midnight. It can viewed from various areas downtown, although the best spot is near the tower’s base at Skyline Park (which is also the site of a public ice-skating rink).

It’s just down the street from Lower Downtown and Union Station and its host of Christmas activities and, toward the Capitol, the visually stunning Mile High Tree, at 16th and Welton streets.

The 3-D pitch would have been a gamble with anyone else, said artist Bagley, who led the project with Moke. Bagley’s been using ChromaDepth since it bowed commercially in the early 1990s, he said. And when Moke visited Bagley’s studio at RedLine Contemporary Art Center a few months back, he was instantly converted.

“It’s an idea that nine out of ten people would have shut down,” said Bagley, whose work is featured in Next Stage gallery’s current immersive exhibition, “Through the Looking Glass.” “But I couldn’t have found a better advocate in David.”

The prismatic technique brings warm colors to the fore and pushes cool colors to the back, Bagley said. If you wear the glasses day-to-day, many objects suddenly take on depth and characteristics they wouldn’t normally have. And given their sponsorship, the glasses are also compatible with the color palettes at Meow Wolf Denver’s Convergence Station, which opened in September.

Free glasses are available at Understudy, at 14th and Stout streets next to the RTD Light Rail stop, and at the Downtown Denver Rink, in Skyline Park next to the D&F Tower. Denver Theatre District representatives will also be on the 16th Street Mall handing out glasses on select nights, Moke said. See nightlightsdenver.com for more.

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