Memorial Art Gallery Lighting Updates

University Facilities and Services is always looking for ways to make sustainable improvements. In recent years, multiple LED retrofitting projects have been completed across many of the University of Rochester campuses, including at the Medical Center, the Central Utilities Plant, Danforth Dining Center, Rush Rhees Library, in the common areas of some Hill Court Buildings, the Medical Center Parking Garage and in multiple River Campus parking lots. New energy efficient lighting was also recently installed in the Memorial Art Gallery (MAG) of the University of Rochester.

Various lamps and light fixtures have been updated throughout MAG. Inefficient lights have been replaced with LEDs in the Auditorium, Auditorium Corridor, Fountain Court, Renaissance Gallery, Brush Gallery, Tour Entrance, Lockhart Hallway, and Selwyn Case. Prioritizing which lights would be replaced was the first step in the project. Upgrades were a priority for light fixtures that were outdated and those for which replacement parts and/or bulbs were difficult to find. So far 258 lights have been replaced with new, long-lasting LED lights. However, the project isn’t finished yet. The staff at the MAG have plans to continue replacing old lights with new LEDs in order to save as much energy as possible.

How do LEDs save so much energy? LED stands for “light emitting diode.” Incandescent bulbs release 90% of their energy as heat, which is a significant waste of energy. LED light bulbs produce substantially less heat but the same amount of light. As a result, LED bulbs use significantly less energy. In addition, LED lights last 20 times longer than their older counterparts. LED lights have a lifespan and electrical efficiency that is much better than mercury vapor and metal halide lights, requiring less maintenance, replacement, and therefore producing less waste. They also provide a better quality light that better imitates sunlight. Replacing the lights at MAG not only improves the lighting displays for the many works of art on display, but also reduces the museum’s carbon footprint and saves energy.

With the renovations that have already been completed, MAG is saving 111,255 kWh and $8,800 each year. This is a carbon footprint reduction of 166,883 pounds of CO2 annually. The project will also save $3,900 each year in maintenance costs and $5,800 in reduced cooling. The initial cost of the project was $135,000, however the project received multiple grants, including a Davenport-Hatch Grant of $25,000, a NYSCA grant of $47,000, and a RG&E grant of $52,105, which reduced the cost to the Memorial Art Gallery to just $10,895. With the cost of the project being only $10,900 and the total annual savings from reduced electric, cooling, and maintenance of $18,500, the payback period is only seven months!

Replacing the lights in MAG was no easy task. “An art museum has very specific lighting needs, and all of us at MAG are thrilled to know that we can continue to show our works of art in the best possible way while also contributing to a more sustainable University and earth, “ said MAG Mary W. and Donald R. Clark Director Jonathan Binstock.

Lighting can affect artwork both physically and aesthetically. If the lights are too bright or warm, they can cause damage to the art and exhibits. Hot lights can even cause condensation to form on the walls and ceilings, putting the art at greater risk of damage. Replacing the old lights with LEDs is a great solution to this problem since they are run cooler than most other lights. Additionally, new LEDs produce no UV light and therefore eliminate UV damage to artwork from lighting. According to Binstock the LEDs have greater flexibility and offer more control to the designers who are able to make the art and displays look better.

In order to make this project possible many members of the University of Rochester community came together. Along with Binstock, key contributors included Jessica Marten, MAG curator in charge and curator of American Art, Chris Garland, assistant director of advancement and the lead grant writer at MAG, Debbie Foster, area manager for MAG, Dan Bamann from Billitier Electric, Kris McGee, project manager, Nic Minetor MAG’s lighting consultant, Kevin Gibson assistant director for Facilities and Services, and Joe Viterna, program manager for Facilities and Services.


Written by Alyssa Lemire, Class of 2017

Lighting and Photography by Nic Minetor