Illinois Celebrates 200th Birthday with Public Projections


Rooted in Greatness is the new outdoor projection mapping installation near McCormick Place on Cermak Road in Chicago, and it’s creating all kinds of buzz. Brought to fruition in honor of Illinois’ bicentennial, this collaboration between Chicago’s own creative technology agency NEXT/NOW, cultural organization Luma 8 and the TimeLine Theatre, a company dedicated to highlighting sociopolitical issues in history since 1997, uses trees as a backdrop for digital projections of faces that played key roles in the state’s cultural history.

These honored individuals include artists, musicians, politicians, inventors and more from the likes of Barack Obama to Oprah Winfrey and Betty White. According to President of Broadway in Chicago and project founder Lou Raizin, the trees themselves are metaphors for the ongoing influence these luminaries have had on the Land of Lincoln.

“We have four actors who provide the voiceover for it,” Raizin told local news sources. “Playwright Lydia Diamond created a script where you learn about some of the notable figures from the state of Illinois, and then they are all brought to life.”

While TimeLine’s team produced the narrative for the video and audio content, NEXT/NOW went to work making the concept into a digital reality. The result is a subtle and meditative 20-minute cycle of imagery that ends up being more than the sum of its parts.

If you happen to be passing through the area, Rooted in Greatness will be on display for the next six months on trees that are expected to keep their foliage, and therefore their projection cavas, well through the fall season. Check out the video for a brief demonstration, and see below for a list of the artists that made it happen:

Playwright/Script: Lydia Diamond

Video Designer: Mike Tutaj

Composer/Sound Designer: Andre Pluess

Dramaturg: Maren Robinson

Voiceover:  Peter Sipla, Donna Steele, Ginneh Thomas, Jonah Winston

TimeLine Artistic Director: PJ Powers

Associate Artistic Director: Nick Bowling

About Author

Jason Kushner is a videographer, editor, writer and filmmaker living in the Greater Atlanta Area. With an educational background combining film and journalism, Kushner has shot video and written for a myriad of publications and multimedia projects including Creative Loafing Tampa,, Starline Films and Digital Signage Connection. His 2009 documentary American Colonies: Collapse of the Bee became an Official Selection at 12 international film festivals, won Best Documentary at the 2009 Central Florida Film Festival and a John Muir Gold Award at the 2009 Yosemite Film Festival.  In 2015, he became Digital Media Editor for Digital Signage Expo, LightShow West and LED Specifier Summit and has since become Digital Content Manager for those shows’ parent company, Exponation.

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