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Giant, light-bending bubbles will make it a literal Rainbow Summer

The Marcus Performance Arts Center outdoor grounds will welcome a massive art installation as part of Rainbow Summer this July.
Atelier Sisu / Marcus Performing Arts Center
The Marcus Performance Arts Center outdoor grounds will welcome a massive art installation as part of Rainbow Summer this July.

Before Jazz in the Park and Chill on the Hill. Before Musical Mondays and Wonderful Wednesdays and any other alliterative day-of-the-week event you can conjure, there was Rainbow Summer.

Started in 1975 and revived in 2021 after a 17-year disappearance, the downtown outdoor entertainment series will be back once again this year courtesy of the Marcus Performing Arts Center (MPAC). And if that news — and all the other seasonal music event news rolling out over the last few weeks — has you floating, Rainbow Summer has the perfect visual accompaniment lined up.

For one week only, July 18-22, the MPAC will transform its outdoor grounds with a bubble-laden public-art installation titled “Evanescent” from Sydney-based design studio Atelier Sisu. I could try to capture the essence of this translucent experience, but there’s just something about artist-conjured language I just can’t resist. Here it is, direct from the studio:

Evanescent is an immersive, light and sound temporary environment that aims to capture the concept of ephemerality and transience in a visual form: the bubble. The artwork was inspired during the COVID-19 pandemic, when the world stopped and everything we took for granted started to disappear. Atelier Sisu endeavored to communicate this feeling of transient beauty, and the need to live in the moment through the idea of the bubble.

By day, Evanescent is made from a color-reflecting dichroic film that reacts to the changing light of the sun as it moves across the sky, causing a rainbow of reflection across the ground and a unique picture from every angle. This art-chitecture connects audiences with their environment and is designed to be truly inclusive. By emulating the ethereal quality and magic of bubbles, Atelier Sisu’s Evanescent appeals to our universal playfulness and childlike wonder, the work encourages the audience to consider the world around them as a space of transience and fragility, like that of a bubble.

In case you’re more of the visual type:

“We are elated to expand on our partnership with Milwaukee Downtown to bring this world-renowned installation to our community alongside a diverse selection of musical artists …” MPAC V.P. of programming and engagement Jared Duymovic said in a release. “This is the first large-scale public activation of our newly renovated outdoor space, and we look forward to welcoming everyone to enjoy and experience this exciting summer event.”

The shiny and decidedly Instagrammable installation follows closely on the heels of a similar setup at Cathedral Square Park, “Lightfield” by HYBYCOZO, which opted for the geometric approach. Evanescent is decidedly more spherical, with three sets of four bubbles each covering a total of 1,400 square yards — nearly the entire lawn area of the MPAC outdoor grounds.

According to the release, the installation “invites playful, fun interaction.” As a public service, I would add that it might be a good idea to leave the hatpins, broaches and other sharp objects at home, lest you accidentally let the air out of everyone else’s good time.

In addition to the light-refracting bubbles, each night will also include live music, vendors, food trucks and other activities. The performances get started at 7 p.m., with the exception of Family Night on July 22, which moves that up an hour to 6 p.m. There are still more details to come, including the music lineup, so check back here and the MPAC website for updates.