September 2018

Francesca Bastianini, MIES
Sighte Studio

Q: How did you first get started in the lighting industry?
This isn’t a new story, but I came into lighting through the theatre. As an undergrad at Smith College, I studied both theatre and psychology, and in the theatre, I found a mentor in my lighting professor, Nan Zhang, and a love for lighting as a medium to form space and shape emotions. After graduating, however, I pursued a masters in psychology at Lesley University, believing that I would be a psychologist first and work theatre in as a side passion. While working as a therapist with clients, I realized I wasn’t in the right role, and slowly shifted to doing more and more lighting work. While I was working in Boston, Nan Zhang brought her class on a trip to visit Lam Partners in Cambridge. She asked me to join her, and that was my first introduction to architectural lighting. We met and talked with one of the principals, Glenn Heinmiller, and after that visit, I signed up for lecture events sponsored by the IES and DLFNE. I was fascinated by the possibility of shifting into architectural lighting, and contacted Glenn about an internship. He very kindly redirected me to take some CAD classes and consider the lighting program at Parsons. I did, and I did. I moved to New York to go to Parsons and am to this day extremely grateful to Nan and Glenn for opening this path. Shifting from theatrical lighting architectural lighting, I became aware that while I love theatre, I was really drawn to light and how it shapes us and the spaces we inhabit.

While I was a student at Parsons, where I received my MFA in Lighting Design, I had the great fortune and pleasure of interning at Cline Bettridge Bernstein Lighting Design, and then at Renfro Design Group. Both firms expanded my education, exposing me to great projects, an understanding of office structure, standards, and workflow, and introduced me to people whom I am still excited to see at lighting events. After Parsons, I worked with Nelson Jenkins at Lumen Architecture, whom I am grateful to have worked with and have as a mentor. I learned every day in that office, and did so by being given the space to take on as much responsibility as I could handle. We worked on exciting projects and drank lots of delicious coffee. Two years ago, I started Sighte Studio with one of my classmates and friends from Parsons, Alexandra Pappas-Kalber.

Q: How did you first get involved in the IESNYC?
I have a magnet on my fridge, given to me by a friend from college, which reads, "Stop me before I volunteer again." While I was at Parsons I became a member of the IESNYC, but also volunteered to be an officer of the student chapter. It was immediately apparent that one of the benefits of being at Parsons and New York was the network of working professionals, many of whom I was able to meet through the IESNYC. In 2010, I was fortunate to receive a Richard Kelly Grant, which is administered by the IESNYC, for work related to my thesis focusing on lighting recommendations for New York City’s homeless population. After graduating I participated on the membership committee. Currently, I’ve limited my participation to being an active member.

Q: How do you see your role as member of the IESNYC?
My role as a member of the IESNYC includes being an active participant in events and also encouraging others, particularly students and recent graduates, to be part of the community beyond their role in a firm or company. You gain a lot from seeing projects, attending seminars, and learning from people you may not have the benefit of working with on a daily basis. I have attended the Lumens since my first year in New York City, and this year I had the privilege of being one of the judges. While I know as a designer how much effort it takes to put together a project submission, going through the process of reviewing all the submissions as part of the jury reminded me just how much yearly effort goes into putting together the awards program.

Q: In your opinion, what are the best assets of the IESNYC?
It is a formal extension of the amazing lighting community in New York City, one that comes together to share experiences, projects, and knowledge, as well as to socialize and educate. The IESNYC encourages students and recent graduates to participate in the community through the student chapters, the emerging professionals initiative and programs like the student competition. I really enjoyed submitting when I was a student—although I recognize my piece was not all that well-crafted—and now as an instructor, I’m curious to see the creative ways students interpret the year’s prompt.

The IESNYC is also a collaborative organization. This is the fourth year of the Moonlighting program. It’s a joint program between the IESNYC, IALDNY and DLFNY, showcasing the hobbies and passions that members of the lighting community pursue outside of work. As the new president of DLFNY and a DLFNY liaison, I am grateful for the opportunities to bring people together and a program that allows for people to share parts of themselves we don’t often get to see.