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Mystery benefactor helps CalArts students acquire Clay Paky lighting
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Theatrical lighting students at California Institute of the Arts in Valencia, CA, are in the dark about the identity of a mysterious benefactor who has helped them buy a truckload of Clay Paky moving spotlights.

Hollywood dreams have come true for students on the Graduate Lighting Program at CalArts thanks to an anonymous donor who provided $50,000 for lighting equipment. The course is led by renowned lighting designer Anne Militello who says she still does not know who gave the college the cash, but the students are delighted to have what they consider the best moving lights on the market. The money was spent on equipment from Solaris, an online used audio and lighting supplier based in Atlanta, GA. It generously supplied complete lights and parts including 18 fully working Clay Paky Alpha HPE 575 Spots and Washes. ‘The students were so thrilled many of them have stayed over during vacations to carry on working with the lights,’ says Militello.

The college, established in 1961 by Walt and Roy Disney, had some lighting for the course already, explains Militello, but it was almost all Source Four theatrical spotlights. Although CalArts bought a moving light control console, the funds to buy the moving lights to go with it simply were not available until the mystery donor made the gift.

‘My class did a study of all the available lighting and created a wish list of everything they wanted from it.’ Militello says. ‘At the top of the list of criteria were versatility, size and beam range.’ Militello and the class then took to the road to visit LDI, the entertainment lighting convention in Las Vegas, where manufacturers from around the world were putting the latest moving light technologies on display.

‘They were about unanimous in deciding they wanted Clay Paky fixtures, after researching all the specs on all the moving lights out there, and also from what they saw at LDI,’ says Militello. ‘They were very impressed by the patterns and effects that you can achieve, the colors that can be mixed, the beam spread, the size and weight and the brightness of the Clay Paky fittings for their wattage,’ she explains.

‘The next challenge was buying them,’ says Militello. ‘We knew that even with $50,000 buying anything brand new wasn’t going to get us very far and we could only afford a few lights.’ Lucky for CalArts, Solaris came to the rescue by offering the students its entire existing inventory of Clay Paky lights and components for what they could spend. ‘They gave us a truckload of parts and working lights including 18 working Alpha 575 HPE Spots and washes, and parts for another six lights,’ she adds.

The Alpha Spot HPE 575 is a high-performance 575 W spotlight with 20 gobos on three wheels, a CMY color system and high-speed mechanical iris, used to create a very wide range of effects under DMX control. ‘The students love the lights and they are doing amazing things with them that they just could not have done before,’ says Militello, who still wonders about their benefactor’s identity.