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Hannah Jones

Fernbank’s “WildWoods: AGLOW” debuts, using light and sound to tell nature’s hidden stories

Upon walking past the incandescent mushrooms, visitors will hear a musical symphony. (Photo courtesy of Fernbank Museum.)

By Hannah E. Jones

Using a blend of the natural landscape and glowing artistic projections, “WildWoods: AGLOW” tells a story of the interconnectedness and intricacies of nature.

Fernbank Museum of Natural History’s “WildWoods: AGLOW” — an immersive, multi-sensory experience — debuted on Thursday, Nov. 17 and will run until Sunday, March 5. The outdoor nighttime experience highlights the intricate and vibrant systems of the natural world, inspired by the native flora and fauna in Fernbank’s 10-acre woodlands. 

This section of the immersive experience highlights the stages of forest growth. (Photo courtesy of Fernbank Museum.)

“With WildWoods: AGLOW, we wanted to focus on what’s happening every day all around us in WildWoods and Fernbank Forest, and highlight the unique stories that are there,” said Brandi Berry, Fernbank’s VP of Marketing, who was part of the team creating the experience. “A lot of nature’s stories are sometimes hidden, microscopic, only at night or happen very, very slowly. Those were all the [elements] we built into the storyline.”

AGLOW was created in partnership with Thinkwell, a design and production agency, and is the third project the two organizations have teamed up on.   

Upon entering the WildWoods, visitors may feel like a small woodland creature, with trees and flowers looming larger than life. Earth’s natural systems are shown through light projections and sculptures — depicting a tree’s roots growing or the bustling forest understory. The displays wind through the woods and are accompanied by multi-colored light projections that dance through the air, creating a mosaic on the forest floor. 

One of several the interactive features at “AGLOW.” (Photo by Hannah E. Jones.)

Not only are the WildWoods alive with light, but it’s also filled with sound — music composed specifically for AGLOW. Each habitat is accompanied by soft, enchanting instrumental music. The music matches the surrounding environment so well that it almost seems to be occurring naturally, with the forest acting as the orchestra. 

Some displays are interactive, like the incandescent mushrooms that play music as you walk by, almost as if you’re stepping on an oversized xylophone. 

“[In one section,] we’re looking at the communication of mushrooms through their root system,” Berry said. “[The team] explored the idea that if you could hear mushrooms communicate, what might it sound like? So we put together a symphony where when you walk by the mushrooms, they engage with you and start to sing.” 

The soft yet bright light along with the calming music creates tranquility and ease in the Fernbank WildWoods, a feeling fitting for a storybook. Ultimately, the experience invites visitors to slow down and notice the little things in life.

“One of the things that can be really hard in the modern world is getting people to tap into the power of observation,” Berry said. “So much of our lives is nonstop — almost chaos — with phones and social media. We get instant gratification everywhere we go. But sometimes you can get that gratification from slowing down, observing, being curious and exploring. That’s what we’re looking to do here with WildWoods: AGLOW.”

Click here for tickets and additional information about Fernbank’s “WildWoods: AGLOW.”

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Hannah E. Jones

Hannah Jones is an Atlanta native and Georgia State University graduate, with a major in journalism and minor in public policy. She began studying journalism in high school and has since served as a reporter and editor for two newspapers. Hannah managed the Arts and Living section of The Signal, Georgia State’s independent award-winning newspaper. She has a passion for environmental issues, urban life and telling a good story. Hannah can be reached at hannah@saportareport.com.

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