Kathy O'Neill had something more to say; something more serious and earth-bound than you might expect from the community engagement director of the high-rising Boise attraction known as JUMP. Just one day prior, O'Neill was all smiles and laughter as she talked about an upcoming celebration dubbed "Illumibrate," which will employ every corner of the massive six-story JUMP building. But on this particular day, O'Neill told Boise Weekly, "Well, I've been thinking a lot about Parkland. How can you not think about Parkland?"
That would be Parkland, Florida, where on Feb. 14, seventeen people were killed in the second-deadliest shooting at a U.S. public school, the latest in a growing list of such incidents across the nation.
"So many shootings ... so much division. Where do we go from here? Don't you sense an intense desire for a feeling of community, for a sense of belonging?" asked O'Neill. "I just heard on the radio about something called the Global Happiness Report."
For a casual observer, a "happiness report" may get short shrift. That is, until it's revealed that the report, authored by some of the smartest economists, psychologists and artists on the planet, was delivered to the World Government Summit in Dubai on Feb. 10, and is the product of the Sustainable Development Solutions Network, commissioned in 2012 by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. The most recent report indicates measurable happiness is rapidly decreasing in the United States, and while happiness may be quite personal, the report concludes it is also nearly always social.
"That's where we might come in, at JUMP. Think of the possibilities here," said O'Neill, waving her arm across the spacious JUMP lobby. "Anything is possible here. We're told that we all have a gift; We might help you find it."
Finding JUMP itself isn't an issue—its high-profile, whimsical architecture has been the talk of the town since it sprung from the ground on a parcel of land bordered by Front, Myrtle, Ninth and Eleventh streets. Yet, more than a year after its debut JUMP is still something of an enigma.
"What do I tell a stranger? Come down and check it out. A light bulb comes on and then you hear, 'I get it.' But you've got to come down and experience it," O'Neill said.
JUMP has hosted scores of public and private events since it first opened its doors in December of 2015, but planners think Illumibrate, set for Friday, March 2, might be the best opportunity to unite with a community hungry for connection. The Idea of Illumibrate has been cooking in the back of JUMP Executive Director Maggie Soderberg's brain since before the building was even erected. With a heavy emphasis on illumination, nearly every event in the festival is designed to light up the night sky.
On the night of the festival, visitors will be greeted on the JUMP plaza by something called the "Illumicone," a 19-foot-tall, interactive art installation that caused more than a bit of buzz at Burning Man in 2016.
"You walk inside it and you're the one who manipulates the light and color," explained O'Neill.
Outside of JUMP, food trucks will line the "celebration circle," while the inside of the complex will host a plethora of activities: students from local schools will craft a "color forest" with illuminated trees on the fifth floor; body art stations will deck out youth and the young at heart with glitter tattoos and glow sticks; a video sculpture will light up the Inspire Studio on the fourth floor and live music will fill the third-floor garden terrace. And then there's the silent disco.
"We're teaming up with a local company, Kaleidisco, which makes all of that happen. We held our first silent disco in December and it was amazing," said Miranda Palacio, a dancer, choreographer and studio coordinator for JUMP Move. "It's crazy fun. Imagine 350 to 400 people, each with their own set of headphones, dancing to the music they choose. The lights are down, the glitter ball is going. It's a blast."
The silent disco—where a DJ spins different tunes on color-coded tracks, which each dancer can choose from on their headphones—will keep attendees dancing through the night. It, like all the other events at Illumibrate, will be free.
Even so, four performances of something called CHROMA will likely be the highlight of the night. CHROMA is a multimedia dance, live music and immersive projection light show, scripted by Andrew Heikkila and choreographed by Palacio. It includes full sets and costumes wired with neon, designed by Play Studio Manager Jesse Cordtz, who has conceived productions for the American Music and Grammy Awards.
"I was watching the Super Bowl halftime and they had all of these illuminated costumes and I thought, 'Wow, our dancers can dance just like these guys," said O'Neill.
O'Neill's smile was itself illuminating as she listened to her colleague's plans for Illumibrate.
"Imagine. In a world that sometimes feels darker and darker, having a place where a kid can say, 'I want to do that. I want to move like that. I want to dance. I want to sing. I want to build a stage," she said. "Now, that's what JUMP is all about. Illumibrate will be an awe-inspiring night of color and lights. But it's all about that engagement."