PSS Winter '13


Luminary Designer

by Helen Hunsinger ’12 and Melissa Sue Sorrells Galley ’05

Wendy Ewen Cooney ’86

FIRST JOB: Drafter, Cline Bettridge Bernstein Lighting Design

CURRENT JOB: Lighting Designer

Her blog says it all: “55 fixtures, one scaffold, two ladders, three days. We hung the system and patched and programmed the fixtures during a record breaking heat wave with no HVAC operational yet. This is one installation I will never forget!”

Wendy Ewen Cooney ’86 recently completed this herculean task as the lighting designer for eTown Hall, a live music venue and recording complex located in downtown Boulder, Colo. As the founder of Wendy Cooney Lighting Design LLC, she focuses on architectural lighting design for residential, school, church and restaurant projects as well as historic restorations.

Committed to creating innovative, relevant and sustainable lighting design solutions, Cooney has also worked closely with municipalities to develop community lighting policies that address sustainability and light pollution. As part of that commitment, Cooney is currently implementing leading edge LED technology into both her architectural, theatrical and concert lighting systems.

“It is an exciting time to be working on energy efficient lighting solutions,” says Cooney, who blogs about her passion on “LED lighting has provided a new building tool and is providing me inspiration in every aspect of my work. With respect to quality, color, control, efficiency, longevity and application, LED lighting is an outstanding source when specified appropriately.”

It was her faithful use of cutting-edge LED technologies that brought her to eTown Hall, which generates most of its own power onsite with solar panels that cover the roof. “eTown founder Nick Forster contacted me directly and asked me to take a look at the project,” says Cooney, who has been married to Hobart alumnus John Cooney ’85 for 19 years. “My crossover approach, combining architectural and theatrical lighting, appealed to his vision. I love eTown, so of course I said yes.”

To Cooney’s surprise, she was soon working shoulder-to-shoulder with former HWS classmate and friend Sam Berkow '84, founding partner of SIA Acoustics and one of eTown Hall’s principal consultants. “Sam and I had initially met my first year at HWS, but I am sure it had been more than 25 years since I had seen him,” she says. “It has been great to collaborate with such an accomplished professional as well as fun to reconnect as friends.”

Cooney worked on the venue’s 200- seat performance hall, the state-of-the-art recording studio and the community room, a multi-function space that hosts a variety of needs including a café, workshops and intimate performances. “All of these spaces require both architectural lighting as well as separately controlled DMX stage lighting systems,” says Cooney, who runs eTown’s lighting board during live events. “It was and continues to be a tremendously rewarding project.”

Before founding her own company, Cooney worked for Cline Bettridge Bernstein Lighting Design, served as the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum’s exhibition lighting designer for five years and developed the gallery lighting system for the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain. She credits her HWS education with preparing her for the challenges of her career–even hanging lights in record-breaking heat with no air conditioning.

“I wouldn’t be where I am today if it weren’t for my HWS education. It taught me how to learn, how to teach myself and how to be a critical thinker. It provided me with everything I needed to move into my career,” says Cooney, who earned her B.A. in individual studies in architecture. “After graduating from William Smith in 1986, I took a drafting job at a lighting design firm in New York City, and as they say, the rest is history.”


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