Lighting Designer Daniel Davisson on Why Phoenix Artists Need to Support Each Other

Meet lighting designer Daniel Davisson.
Meet lighting designer Daniel Davisson.
Nancy Lynn Miller of PoshCreative

Every other year, New Times puts the spotlight on Phoenix's creative forces — painters, dancers, designers, and actors. Leading up to the release of Best of Phoenix, we're taking a closer look at 100 more. Welcome to the 2016 edition of 100 Creatives. Up today is 41. Daniel Davisson.

Daniel Davisson's work is the kind you see but might not notice. 

"A lighting designer is the person that paints the stage with light," the 29-year-old says. "They determine the types of color each light will produce to eventually create a stage picture."

Which means that great lighting helps tell a story, bolster performances, set a mood, and, simply, direct an audience's attention to where they should look. "The way I describe it is when you are at a play, or concert or a dance show, and every time the lights change or do something," he says, "that is all a direct choice created by a lighting designer."

Davisson grew up part of a creative family in Fountain Hills and says he was constantly surrounded by creative people. "I was fortunate that my aunt owned and operated a local community theater, so that was where I spent my time after school," he says. "When other kids my age were home playing video games, I was operating the light and sound consoles for the shows. I had a hunger for the professional theater world from a very young age, and created my own drive and determination to be where I’m at today. An opportunity presented itself to me, and I took it and have not looked back."

Now, he serves as resident lighting designer for both Phoenix Theatre and Scorpius Dance Theatre, works as adjunct dance production faculty at Glendale Community College, and is assistant production supervisor at Herberger Theater Center. He's also production manager for Scorpius, Center Dance Ensemble, and Southwest Shakespeare Company. That means helping make sure that their season is "produced thoroughly and that all technical elements are arranged for and determined."

Most recently, Davisson founded his own arts and entertainment company called Davisson Entertainment, where, he says, "we cultivate and provide support to local performing art and culture scenes." And, not one to be pigeonholed, he's also the founder of the annual Phx Vegan Food Festival, which will return in 2017. 

"My greatest accomplishment so far would be that I have put myself in the position that I’m at today," Davisson says. "That people are proud to work with me and that people want to work with me. I feel accomplished when people begin to realize and appreciate my work, and I’m very fortunate to be accepted into such a diverse and talented creative community."

Davisson works with companies including Southwest Shakespeare.
Davisson works with companies including Southwest Shakespeare.
Courtesy of Southwest Shakespeare Company

I was born in Phoenix and grew up in Fountain Hills. I was very fortunate to grow up in a household and a family that celebrated the arts. My aunt ran the local community theater, my grandfather and uncle were well-known Valley sculptors, and my mom was a talented mural artist and illustrator. I grew up in the local theater scene, where I found my desire and love for lighting design. The hobby quickly turned into my passion, and I eventually began taking college classes while still in high school in hopes to further my education and transition quicker into the real world. I was very lucky to be taken under the wing of the talented artisans and technicians with the Phoenix Theatre in 2006 where I was able to cultivate my desire and need to create art within a large-scale medium. Being involved with Phoenix Theatre garnered me with tremendous wisdom and instinct, and a sense of professionalism which eventually led me to creating my own arts and entertainment production company, Davisson Entertainment, where we focus on cultivating and promoting the local performing arts and creative scene here in Phoenix.

I make art because it’s all I have ever known! It’s what I was meant to do and where I feel the most confident.

I'm most productive when I allow myself to be open and receptive and not force it. I can never stop thinking of ideas, but what I find to be the most productive ideas are when I allow the ideas to not take over and kinds of let things naturally fall into place. The really good ideas will stick in your memory bank, while the other not so good ideas will just be nonexistent.

My inspiration wall is full of photographs of art and architecture, theater playbills and posters, color renderings and current design inspirations, books, calendars, and post-its.

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I've learned most from the people I work with and my mentors. I pride myself on being surrounded by the people who constantly help me perform my best. Being a theater artist, we tend to have wide circles that we work in and get comfortable with the uncomfortable situations. Not everyone will agree with a choice, or a decision that you made as an artist, but you learn how to be able to collaborate and appreciate others and how not to take things too seriously or personal. I have learned how to accept criticism. I have also learned a great deal from my mentor and my predecessor from Phoenix Theatre, Michael Eddy, who took me under his wing and taught me the ropes of lighting design. He taught me by example that you can be a great and talented designer, and still be a genuine person. I could not have benefited from so many great experiences at such a young age without his guidance and support.

Good work should always go unnoticed, at least in my world of lighting. In the terms of lighting design, our job as a designer is not to grab attention or distract, but instead to tell the story and provide focus and direction. To support the work being done on stage. We are here to bring every other element together and showcase it to the best it can be. Good work (lighting) should act the glue of the overall concept and design integrity of the production and help bring each individual level of production together as a whole.

The Phoenix creative scene could use more support. I think we sometimes pigeonhole ourselves into trying to classify what niche we fill in the creative scene, or how we feel we can showcase our individual talents the most. When really, what we need to do is come together and support each other. We are all in this scene together, and we all have to work together. So we might as well support each other because life is better that way.

The 2016 Creatives so far:

100. Nicole Olson
99. Andrew Pielage
98. Jessica Rowe
97. Danny Neumann
96. Beth Cato
95. Jessie Balli
94. Ron May
93. Leonor Aispuro
92. Sarah Waite
91. Christina "Xappa" Franco
90. Christian Adame
89. Tara Sharpe
88. Patricia Sannit
87. Brian Klein
86. Dennita Sewell
85. Garth Johnson
84. Charissa Lucille
83. Ryan Downey
82. Samantha Thompson
81. Cherie Buck-Hutchison
80. Freddie Paull
79. Jennifer Campbell
78. Dwayne Hartford
77. Shaliyah Ben
76. Kym Ventola
75. Matthew Watkins
74. Tom Budzak
73. Rachel Egboro
72. Rosemary Close
71. Ally Haynes-Hamblen
70. Alex Ozers
69. Fawn DeViney
68. Laura Dragon
67. Stephanie Neiheisel
66. Michael Lanier
65. Jessica Rajko
64. Velma Kee Craig
63. Oliver Hibert
62. Joya Scott
61. Raji Ganesan
60. Ashlee Molina
59. Myrlin Hepworth
58. Amy Ettinger
57. Sheila Grinell
56. Forrest Solis
55. Mary Meyer
54. Robert Hoekman Jr.
53. Joan Waters
52. Gabriela Muñoz
51. ColorOrgy
50. Liz Magura
49. Anita and Sam Means
48. Liz Ann Hewett
47. Tiffany Fairall
46. Vanessa Davidson
45. Michelle Dock
44. Nia Witherspoon
43. Monique Sandoval
42. Nayon Iovino

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