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Photo Credit: Christopher Butt, Daria Deshuk, Shanna Dressler, Rachel Elkind, Vince Eng, Christian Oth, Michela Pasquali, Sara Press, Miriam Romais, David Sorcher, Nancy Yates, “Sky” composed and performed by Koshek Swaminathan, Copyright 1996 Koshek Swaminatha
The Winter Candle Lantern Pageant is a 3month collaborative environmental art project engaging gardeners, artists, students, and diverse community members of all ages from the culturally diverse community of the Lower East Side of New York City, in the creation, design, production, and participation in an evening candle lantern procession through the Lower East Side, and ritual performance at the La Plaza Cultural Garden. The Winter Pageant was inaugurated as an annual community art project in 1995, in response to the community’s desire to raise awareness for the garden preservation initiative to permanently preserve the gardens, connect people with the cycles of the natural world, celebrate the gardens in the winter when they usually are forgotten, and to activate people throughout the year to participate in community building and the peace-making process.
The winter pageant features an illuminated procession of spectacular costumed earth spirits, giant puppets, and hundreds of glowing lanterns. The spectacular winter ceremony features: fire dancers, a garden-scape of shadow, light, and multi-media projections, opera singer, and an illuminated winter angel that will fly from a 6 story building into the garden. Hot cider and apples will be served.
Every year the pageant is a new work and collaboration, engaging the ideas of local artists, gardeners, children, and community people in the planning and creation of a mythic performance and symbolic journey from darkness and sleep, to light and renewal, weaving in myths and characters of winter, nature, and gardens from around the world with neighborhood history, current issues, local hero stories, and community accomplishments.
In previous years the Winter Pageant has included the myth of Persephone and Demeter, butoh dance, multi-media projections, ambient soundscapes, trapeze performance, Uruguayan Candombe music, and local stories and poetry by gardeners, community individuals, and children. Free production workshops are open to the community to participate in the creation of giant puppets, costumes, poetry, plays, music, dance and hundreds of hand-made sculptural bamboo and tissue paper lanterns. In addition, three months prior to the pageant, artists working in a variety of media conduct at least 2 residencies of 4 workshops each (a total of 8 workshops) throughout local public schools, community centers, and at the central Earth Celebrations workshop space, to create the many giant puppets, costumes, and performances for the pageant.
The community pageant is a place where people can express their imaginations, make dreams a living reality, transcend cultural and special interest differences, and build alliances with people and organizations. The pageants also have an effect beyond the project, to the lives of the individuals and the common goals the community can achieve together.