Member of the Month

We are pleased to introduce to our readers the IESNYC Member of the Month, chosen as part of a dedicated team of professionals that represent a cross-section of the lighting industry in New York City. We value their expertise, and thank them for volunteering their time and energy for the betterment of the section.

February 2017

Susannah Zweighaft, LC, CLD, LEED AP, IALD
AKF Lighting Design 

Q: How did you first get started in the lighting industry?
When I was 15 years old, my best friend, Lisa, wanted to try out for the school musical, West Side Story. Not one for being on stage, I went to support her by sitting in the audience. Then the teacher announced they were also looking for people to do sets, costumes and lighting. I thought, “I could do that!” and it was then that I fell in love with theater lighting. When it was time to apply for college, my path was set — I was majoring in theatrical lighting design. I went to Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, and took the one available class in architectural lighting. That spring I saw a piece in LD+A that said IALD was starting an internship program chaired by Lesley Wheel and Howard Brandston. I grabbed my architectural lighting class project and applied. I was hired as the first IALD intern by Lesley Wheel, and spent that summer at Wheel-Gertstoff Lighting Design. Upon graduation, I promptly left the theater behind and went full steam into my new architectural lighting design career. My theatrical lighting background was essential and taught me to understand light and shadow.

Q: How did you first get involved in the IESNYC?
While at school I was a student member of the IALD and subscribed to LD+A. As soon as I started working, I found out more about the IES and joined in 1982. Over the years, I contributed to our section wherever I could. In 2000, Shoshana Siegel asked me to co-chair the Lumen Awards with her, and I wound up doing that for several years and continued doing so with co-chair Megan Carroll. I was also on the Lumen Awards jury and did the same for the Society’s Illumination Awards. Recently, I served as guest judge for the IESNYC Scholarship, which awards students working toward a career in lighting. It was a rewarding experience, and I especially enjoyed the brainstorming session that went on in the committee after judging was completed. We discussed ways to ascertain a future lighting designer’s level of creativity, commitment, and potential, and other ways to improve the competition. It was a learning experience for all of us.

Q: How do you see your role as member of the IESNYC?
Having been a member now for 35 years (OMG), I try to assist young talent every way I can. There is much that can be taught and much that can be learned on both sides. I try to teach or lecture at Lightfair and other lighting events and hopefully pass down knowledge — not just about the practice of lighting design itself, but also the details of a successful practice, and successful relationships with your staff and supervisors. I have been fortunate to work through the years with remarkable professionals, whom I count as personal friends, and I’m excited to pass those experiences and what I’ve learned along to the next generations. I usually heed the call when asked to do something special, such as serving as a guest judge on the IESNYC Scholarship Committee. I feel I have not only contributed to the Section, but in the lives of worthy students.

Q: In your opinion, what are the best assets of the IESNYC?
The IESNYC has such an active and participatory membership. We are very lucky to have such a dedicated Board of Managers and amazing volunteers. Our membership is extremely talented and well versed, having depth of knowledge across all areas of architectural lighting. The IESNYC provides yearly educational and networking opportunities, and the committees are open to listening to everyone’s point of view and suggestions to make the Section even stronger. We members often take for granted the amazing efforts of those who give their time and energy in such a passionate way.