In seventh grade, Steven Rosen fell in love with theater, and more significantly, lighting design. Now the president of Available Light, an architectural lighting design firm in Salem that has been around for over 20 years, his passion began when he was participating in a school play and discovered the gigantic lighting control board backstage.
“I think it was 'Annie Get Your Gun,' ” he recalled. “The spark was lit and I was hooked on theatrical lighting design.”
Rosen, 54, described what he does as combining “the creativity of an artist and the technical expertise of an engineer.” With a background in theater, he brings his love for drama to his work in lighting design for major national and international museum exhibits, corporate events, and trade shows.
Rosen will give a lecture on “Painting with Light” this Wednesday, February 27, from 5:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. at 28 Degrees (1 Appleton Street in Boston) hosted by the Illuminating Engineering Society. Rosen will discuss how using light as a compelling medium as well as techniques that can reduce energy consumption in lighting design. He will also showcase some of the work done by Available Light. The event is $25 for students and members, $30 for non-members.
Lighting has a huge impact on a person’s response to his environment, Rosen said, and good lighting design can positively affect people’s experiences and even health; lighting design is used in treatments for health issues ranging from depression abatement to cancer research.
“We all crave good light,” Rosen said. “The kind that reveals our world in beautiful 3D. The kind that does not blind us with glare. The kind that reveals color in appealing ways. The kind that changes over time and keeps life interesting.”
Rosen, who lives with his family in Marblehead, first pursued theatrical lighting design for years as a student in California, and then went on to earn a degree in theater in St. Louis and a master's in stage design at NYU. One day he heard a lecture on architectural lighting that he described as a “crystallizing moment.” Eventually he got a job as a lighting designer for an air and space museum in Virginia.
“I discovered a perfect place at the nexus of architectural and theatrical design and in the early 1990s, this experience led to the founding of Available Light,” Rosen said. “We are now 14 people working out of two studios.”
While half of the firm is local - Rosen’s studio is located on Derby Street in Salem – Available Light works on projects across the country and even the world, such as Sikorsky Helicopter at HeliExpo, the National Museum of the US Army, and a new facility for returning war veterans with severe injuries. The Library of Congress, Harvard, MIT, the International Spy Museum, the Basketball Hall of Fame, Autostadt, and NASA are some of Available Light’s past clients.
On the dark side, in a statement on its philosophy of design, the firm acknowledges that consuming energy is necessarily a side effect of any lighting design.
“Every lumen we produce tips the CO2 scale against humanity,” the statement reads. “According to the International Energy Agency, 19 percent of global electricity generation is for lighting. So where does that leave us lighting designers? We can consume less and we are fervently committed to that goal.”
As a result, Available Light became a member of the US Green Building Council. Rosen said sustainability is a growing concern while demand for good design is also increasing, and he predicts a promising future for sustainable lighting design. Rosen occasionally teaches classes and gives presentations at conferences on lighting design. He and his wife also endow two annual scholarships to students of architectural lighting design through the International Association of Lighting Designers Education Trust.
“Education has always been very important to me. I believe it is key to a civil, technical savvy, and creative society,” Rosen said. “Smart and creative people need to continue to focus their energies right here.”