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Turning the Lights Off on Texas Lighting Designers


by Danielle Georgiou 27 May 2009

Guest blogger Danielle Marie Georgiou is a Dance Lecturer at the University of Texas at Arlington where she serves as the Assistant Director of the UT Arlington’s Dance Ensemble. She is also a member of Muscle Memory Dance Theatre – a modern dance collective. Danielle is currently pursuing her Ph.D. in Arts and Humanities at […]

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Guest blogger Danielle Marie Georgiou is a Dance Lecturer at the University of Texas at Arlington where she serves as the Assistant Director of the UT Arlington’s Dance Ensemble. She is also a member of Muscle Memory Dance Theatre – a modern dance collective. Danielle is currently pursuing her Ph.D. in Arts and Humanities at UT Dallas, and her first book, The Politics of State Public Arts Funding, is out now.

Today, the Texas Senate will be voting on Texas House Bill 2649, a bill that could put thousands of lighting designers in Texas out of business.

The section many lighting designers, technical directors, and lighting professors are concerned about is Sec. 1001.3011: Lighting Design; License or Registration Required, which states that:

(a) A person may not perform or offer to perform lighting design services unless the person is:

(1) licensed as an engineer under this chapter;

(2) registered as an architect, landscape architect, or interior designer under Subtitle B, Title 6; or

(3) licensed under Chapter 1305.

(b) In this section, “lighting design services” means the preparation of plans and specifications that depict the placement and direction of illumination of mounted or installed lighting fixtures in the interior or exterior of a building, including the specification of bulbs, reflectors, lens, louvers, baffles, and other hardware.

The gist of the bill is that unless you’re a state licensed electrician, architect, landscape architect, interior designer or engineer, you’ll no longer be able to practice lighting design in the state of Texas. The economic impact of the proposed legislation will be extensive: dozens of lighting designers practice in Texas, and hundreds of projects in the state depend on professional lighting designers for their full architectural expression.

Though the bill’s affect is currently restricted to Texas lighting designers, its implications could resonate nationally. Members of the International Association of Lighting Designers (IALD) abide by a strict code of ethics and bring both technical knowledge and artistic sensibilities to bringing out the best in buildings and outdoor spaces. IALD professional lighting designers dedicate their careers exclusively to the art and science of lighting. There is no substitute for their level of expertise and professionalism. But a national bill of this magnitude could mean that many trained experts are out of a job. And no one wants that during these economic times.

Furthermore, the underlying context of this bill could be construed as meaning that lighting design is not a valid craft. The current verbiage talks about lighting for structures, which includes what many lighting designers have formed their careers around. One main question raised from this legislation is: why has lighting design not even been taken into consideration in a bill that dictates the qualifications of a lighting designer? Part of the problems stems from the fact that the legislation was drafted without any input from lighting designers themselves. Secondly, there are no provisions for establishing a licensing standard for lighting designers within the document.

Could we be seeing the end of a profession that has brought spaces to life and illuminated the stage and screen for more than 120 years?

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  • tom m

    Is the Senate aware of LC (Lighting Certified) with is an accreditation giving by the NCQLP – National Council on Qualifications for the Lighting Professions? I know that a lot of lighting professionals have this and are trusted by registered architects and engineers.

    http://www.ncqlp.org/

    • dgeorgiou

      Thanks Tom for your insight. I’m not sure if the Senate is aware of the NCQLP and the accreditation many designers have. If you wanted, you could contact these Reps. to make them aware:

      Rep. Wayne Smith 512. 463.0733
      Sen. Bob Deuell 512.463.0122
      Sen. Kip Averitt 512.463.0102

      Or go here to find your particular Rep. to educate them: http://www.senate.state.tx.us/75r/senate/Members.htm

      • Gardiner

        I would certainly hope that the law makers were aware of the NCQLP. They are in Austin! Being an experienced lighting professional, I can understand the need for a certification program such as what the NCQLP offers. It is unfortunate that the state of Texas Legislature feels they need to regulate this, however.

  • Scott Shattuck

    This part:

    ‘“lighting design services” means the preparation of plans and specifications that depict the placement and direction of illumination of mounted or installed lighting fixtures in the interior or exterior of a building’

    suggests to me that this is not intended to restrict the work of theatrical lighting designers or cinematographers, because they don’t work with “mounted or installed lighting fixtures” illuminating architecture but with temporary, moveable instruments illuminating performers, scenery, costumes, etc. I realize that theatrical lighting designers often do architectural lighting as well, and this would certainly affect them in that sphere, but I don’t think it would keep them from lighting for the stage.

    Would it?

  • Anyone have any idea why they Texas Legislature did this? Were there no hearings for public input? This seeme to have been a big surprise to all of us.

  • john

    As an LD who works regularly in large venues in TX this sure is a sad day for Theater in Texas. How silly. How sad and totally silly. I have been on the phone all evening with your legislators trying to rectify this mess. Here’s hoping my voice helps!

  • Chad

    The story goes (as reported by Deborah Frankhouser)

    that Senator Kip Averitt received a
    complaint from presumably a donor type constituent who said a Lighting Designer
    was paid to do some work and ran off with his money. All of the sudden, this
    language appeared. It was clearly done with no knowledge or our industry or
    that even professional lighting designers exist. (regardless of their project
    types) Some disturbing rumors are that he was warned that the language would
    have unexpected implications and that this was ignored; but that is in fact
    rumor.

    • Craig Roberts Associates began architectural lighting design in Texas and is the longest practicing lighting design professional in the state. The ridiculous legislation would put our firm out of business. It is a completely onerous bill that was amended at the last minute by Senator Kip Averitt (512.463.0122) to include the section about lighting designers. Rep Wayne Smith (512.463.0733), the bill’s original author did not include this section and now that it passed the Senate this morning it goes back to him to review this modification to the bill. If he approves tomorrow it goes to the governor to sign into law. These gentlemen would love to hear from you immediately and your calls and emails would be appreciated by our community.

      Thank you,
      Granville McAnear
      Principal

  • Chad

    This really should not affect theatrical designers.

    For politcos to say that engineers or architects (who probably had one lighting class if any in school) are better suited to design lighting than those of us with years of experience (and in many of our cases, graduate degrees from acredited programs) in lighting design is ridiculous.

  • My favorite bit is this:

    “The economic impact of the proposed legislation will be extensive: dozens of lighting designers practice in Texas.”

    OH NOES!! DOZENS OF UNLICENSED PRACTITIONERS WILL HAVE TO MOVE TO OKLAHOMA!!

    • Lighting Designer

      You are an uniformed idiot.

  • The provision in the bill that affected lighting design is all but dead. Thousands of calls were made to the legislature. They are taking the bill to a conference committee to strike the lighting design provision.

  • Bella Luminaire

    At first blush, this really does not appear to affect theatrical lighting designers much at all. One could suggest that scenic designers need to be certified and bonded architects or interior designers. That being said, theatre lighting designers have two very clear options: re-title themselves as “lighting directors,” or get licensed.

  • Angus Wynne

    Spoke with Smith’s assistant, who informed me that after over 200 calls on the subject, Averitt has agreed to drop his amendment, saying that it had unintended consequences for theatrical and concert events, etc. It probably lets a host of others off the hook as well.

    Thanks to Art & Seek for your timely coverage.