MSU Theatre Grad Student Uses Projection Mapping to Get Out the Vote

Michigan State University Department of Theatre MFA Design candidate Rose Legge is using projection mapping to cast graphic art images of voter information onto the side of the Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum (MSU Broad). Her hope is that the presentation will empower citizens to vote by bringing attention to important details, like how to apply for a mail-in ballot or locate the East Lansing City Clerk’s office. The projections will be viewable from the street to passing vehicles and pedestrians alike and will run October 24-30 from 6 to 8 p.m. each night. 

Legge has worked for weeks to create each content image in individual layers to enable them to be animated. The final animations will be projected onto the prominent museum building. 

Q: What was the motivation to create ‘Vote Your Voice’?

Legge: I am a scenic and projections designer. The major motivator for going to grad school is to do shows to build a portfolio. The idea is to graduate with six shows of work, but because of the pandemic, we’ll be lucky if we get three. Of course, the Department of Theatre understands that acutely and so they’ve been working hard to give us something to do. They asked us very early in the season to submit proposals and the call was essentially “If you could do anything you wanted, given the current circumstances, what would it be?” I submitted a proposal for ‘Vote Your Voice’ and, as soon as it was approved, the support and resources just came pouring in from professors, staff members, and fellow students. Everybody helped to put this together before the election.

Q: You intend for this project to empower citizens to vote. What inspired that call to action?

Legge: I have already voted. I went to the City Clerk’s office to register in East Lansing, and I applied for an absentee ballot about three weeks ago. They sent my ballot in the mail and I was able to thoroughly research all the candidates before the election from the safety of my own home. I think this is the first time that I’ve voted and felt absolutely 100% confident about every box that I checked. I went in thinking it would be hard, but it was an extremely easy process. I want to make sure that others feel comfortable to do that as well.

It is very important to me that the projections don’t look like stars and bars nationalism. It’s been crammed down our throats. It is anxiety inducing. I wanted to remind everyone that the reason we vote is to help our community and that we vote as a community. I want people to look at it and think “It’s okay if I don’t know everything about voting because there are people here who want to help me and want to know what I have to say.”

Q: Have you ever done a presentation like this before?

Legge: I have done projection mapping before, but admittedly not at this scale. Using the MSU Broad as my canvas presents an additional challenge due to the lack of any 90-degree angles on the building, but the shiny metal material of the exterior will make the projections much brighter. It should look really beautiful at night.

The MSU Broad was my top choice for where I wanted to put the project and I had no idea if they would be up for it, but the Theatre Chairperson, Stephen DiBenedetto, reached out on my behalf and I got an email that same day with a resounding “yes!”

Q: How did you find the resources to be able to animate and project these images?

Legge: Even though the pandemic took away a lot of what we came to MSU for, it created a crucible where we adapted, and we are still creating. MSU’s Department of Theatre is one of the only schools in the country that has a complete department for media creation and projection design. That is Professor Alison Dobbin’s entire job and she is one of the best professors I’ve ever had. This school has resources at your fingertips and is committed to new technology and experimental art. 

What’s amazing about Michigan State is that if you ask for resources and tell them you are willing to put in the work, they give you what you need. They’re there to help make it happen. It’s very unique.

Q: What is next for you?

Legge: The theatre industry is somewhat stalled at the moment, so I have been turning my skills to protest art and equal rights activism. I’m working on ways to use projections on public buildings to call out systems of oppression and create community engagement. You can’t paint over an image that’s projected.

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Rose Legge’s ‘VOTE YOUR VOICE’ is an MSU Department of Theatre special project presented in partnership with the MSU Broad. It is free and open to the public.

Performance Dates and Times
Saturday, October 24, 6–8 p.m.
Sunday, October 25, 6–8 p.m.
Monday, October 26, 6–8 p.m.
Tuesday, October 27, 6–8 p.m.
Wednesday, October 28, 6–8 p.m.
Thursday, October 29, 6–8 p.m.
Friday, October 30, 6–8 p.m.

The content will span approximately 20 minutes and loop for the two-hour duration.

Location
MSU Broad Museum, 547 E. Circle Dr., East Lansing, MI 48824

For more information, please visit theatre.msu.edu/voice or email Abbie Tykocki at atykocki@msu.edu.