It’s unlikely wildlife artist John James Audubon ever envisioned the wooded rolling hills of Henderson, Kentucky, where he studied and painted birds from 1810 to 1819, would later become a state park with a museum and gallery in his honor. Beginning this spring, visitors were treated to the addition of a new theater and renovated Nature Center at John James Audubon State Park.
After beginning the construction process in November 2013, the existing Nature Center was transformed into a 47-stadium-seat theater with state-of-the-art projection and acoustic technology that opened to the public April 16.
The theater was designed and planned by Opus 1 Media Systems of Evansville. It includes more than 300 hours of programming into the wireless iPad remote control system that accesses the 15-foot projection screen by Draper, the Christie 10,000 lumen 3-chip DLP projector, (the projector often seen in movie theaters), and the Bose Commercial sound equipment.
Opus 1 created virtual replicas to show how the sound waves would reach each audience member and Arc Construction soundproofed the room to make it as quiet as possible while making the sound as pure as possible.
“Even the artwork on the wall are custom acoustic panels with Audubon’s images screen printed on them,” says Cathy Buxton, president of Opus 1 Music.
Massive soundproofing in this room gives the audience that quiet and the audio and video recreates the outside nature.
“We wanted the sound and picture to be as high quality as possible, so if there is an eagle soaring, they can be as immersed as possible with the outdoors indoors,” says parks manager Mark Kellen.
The $486,000 renovation project was funded through the Friends of Audubon, a nonprofit organization that supports the state park, and coal-severance funds through Henderson Fiscal Court.
“There were a lot of exhibits here and what I call encyclopedias on a wall — it was a lot of reading,” says Kellen. “We found that when people would come in they would walk around, spend about five minutes and leave. We knew they weren’t getting anything out of the exhibits. Plus the exhibits were older and put in in 1992. Twenty-two years is a long time for any exhibit. We wanted to build something that would bring Audubon to life and do it for not just younger people but all generations. We wanted to do it in a high tech format.”
Visitors to the museum will watch a brief introduction video on Audubon’s life before they tour the gallery and view the museum’s collection of artwork and artifacts. Currently there are two films shown at the theater: Audubon Legacy and the history of John James Audubon State Park, both created by Kertis Creative of Louisville. The theater is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. during regular museum hours and during special events. Outside the theater space is a new wildlife exhibit area, which includes a 400-gallon aquarium stocked with fish caught from the park’s lake.
Kellen says having the theater space opens up multiple possibilities to entertain or inform visitors to the museum. Each chair has a desktop for writing and the theater has webcam capability for remote classroom lectures or presentations. The projection screen also is compatible with cable networks, a Blu-Ray player, and hard drive media server.
For more information about John James Audubon State Park, contact 270-826-2247 or visit parks.ky.gov.