Making and Breaking Medieval Manuscripts, an exhibition in the West Gallery at Krannert Art Museum, shows the flexibility of new LED lighting in the museum. Funded as part of a campus-wide sustainability initiative, the new lighting is one project among many on the Urbana-Champaign campus.
Installation of photovoltaic panels during construction of the Solar Farm at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Tomato plants in early bloom at the Sustainable Student Farm.

When staff from the Krannert Art Museum switch on the new LED lighting in the Rosann Gelvin Noel Gallery, Annex, Light Court and West Gallery at the Grand Reopening on November 17, they’re doing more than just showcasing their commitment to sustainability. They’re joining numerous departments across campus that have made strides toward a greener tomorrow, financially supported in part by the Student Sustainability Committee (SSC).

The new LED lighting at Krannert Art Museum, funded by a nearly $40,000 grant from SSC, will use one tenth of the energy of the previous incandescent bulbs and each bulb will last five times longer. The new lighting emits far less ultraviolet and infrared light, making it “healthier” for the art as well. Installed throughout the renovated galleries, the new fixtures will enable KAM to safely light a broad range of work at flexible levels appropriate to each exhibition.

LED Lighting at Krannert Art Museum

Visitors will notice even, brighter light settings in exhibitions of artwork where light damage is not a concern. But low lighting, down to 5 foot candles, is also possible, as visitors will notice this semester in the West Gallery exhibition Making and Breaking Medieval Manuscripts.

“Concern about light damage to delicate works on parchment, vellum, or paper is one reason why manuscripts like these are rarely on public view. Our goal is to protect the artwork in our care. Controlling the light level in the gallery is the best way to do that,” said Kimberly Sissons, Collection Manager at the museum.

Exhibition co-curator Maureen Warren remarked at the flexibility of the new lighting, adding that the lower lighting adds a quiet atmosphere to the West Gallery, where Making and Breaking Medieval Manuscripts is on view.

Campus-wide Work by the Student Sustainability Committee

The Student Sustainability Committee (SSC) allocates approximately $1.2 million from student fees each year to projects with strong positive environmental impacts. Some of SSC’s key criteria for selection include visibility, carbon impact, and likelihood of success. By all these criteria, supporting the Krannert Art Museum’s LED Retrofit was an easy decision.

Given their ease of implementation, SSC has supported LED retrofits several times before and since this project. The most high-profile of these was summer 2016’s complete replacement of the audience lighting in the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts’ Foellinger Great Hall. This comprehensive renovation replaced over 3,300 lighting fixtures for an annual energy savings of 503,000 kilowatt hours of electricity and over 400 tons of carbon dioxide emissions.

One of SSC’s largest projects, both in size and national visibility, is campus’s Solar Farm. The 5.97 megawatt array covers 20.8 acres of land just south of Windsor Road. It currently generates enough electricity to meet roughly 2% of total electricity consumption across campus, and has made a major impact in moving the University towards its stated goal of being carbon neutral by 2050. Publications across America have written stories about the Solar Farm, ranging from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education to the Washington Times.

SSC funds Sustainable Student Farm and other projects

SSC has also funded a number of projects specifically related to local and on-campus food production. The Sustainable Student Farm grows many of the vegetables served in the on-campus dining, including a majority of the tomatoes used in the pizza and pasta sauces for the residence halls. Other related sustainable agriculture projects include a large-scale wheat processing plant and a closed-loop aquaponics system.

Finally, for the first time last year, SSC funded the Sonified Sustainability Festival. This concert series and day-long music festival spanned the 2015-2016 school year, with events held across campus at the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts, Krannert Art Museum, and Illini Union Art Gallery. The events reached thousands of attendees, and demand was high enough that the Festival was funded for a second year. The 2017 Sonified Sustainability Festival is currently scheduled for Earth Day: April 22, 2017.

For more information about all SSC-funded projects, as well as how to apply, please visit