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Vincent Lighting: A view from the bridge

Written by Marshall Bissett

Photo © Roger Mastroianni

Like the Cavaliers and the Browns, Vincent Lighting Systems is a Cleveland institution. Unlike those franchises, Vincent has taken the straight – but still long – path to success. Founder Paul Vincent guides the company (commonly known as VLS) using a set of principles he is not afraid to publish: “We have always concentrated on lighting and have not shifted into audio, AV or staging. We have, however, lit an amazing number of bridges!” When, for the opening of football season, VLS changed the classic blue and white of the downtown high-level bridge to the orange of the Cleveland Browns, they got panicked phone calls telling them the bridge was on fire. Today the bridge is back to blue and white.

The company rests on what Vincent calls the “three-legged stool” of systems integration, standard theatrical products and production rentals. Founded in 1978, with a home base in Solon, Ohio, VLS now has offices in Cincinnati, Pittsburgh and Detroit. Their “customers for life” policy has served them well in what Vincent calls the “tertiary markets” of Ohio and the surrounding states. Unlike the business path of a typical theatrical company, VLS evolved from a sales rep background.

Paul Vincent and Kim Caraigie

Vincent’s long career – laid out in detail on the company’s website, www.vls.com – took him from Kliegl Lighting to Colortran and finally to Strand Lighting where he became a manufacturer’s rep in what is now the territory served by VLS. “For years we were synonymous with Strand Lighting and we rode that until being in the rep business no longer worked for us. Four years ago we became a dealer for ETC and we haven’t looked back,” explains Vincent. He believes that the company’s ability to approach jobs from the perspective of the manufacturer’s rep has helped the sales team understand the non-theatrical world of public bids and electrical contractors.

Teamwork plays a key role in the VLS business-model and is listed as “Love Yourself and Others” in the company’s mission statement. A passion for theater is the hallmark of a strong management team. Marketing Director Kim Craigie was hired while pursuing her degree at Cleveland State University. Twenty-two years plus a bachelor’s degree later, she jokes that “they still have not gotten rid of me!” Vice President of Sales Walt Weber and Vice President of Production Services Chris Shick also bring strong theatrical resumes to the table, as do most members of the sales, service and production teams.

Paul Vincent and Kim Caraigie

The recent RNC convention in town gave the company a chance to show its skills, lighting a variety of events from the Ohio delegation, to Three Dog Night and the Backstreet Boys. VLS is especially proud of a recent collaboration with Theatre Projects consultant Steve Rust and VLS Video Lighting Director Chris Shick to mark the opening of the restored and reimagined Milton and Tamar Maltz Performing Arts Center. To light the “Violins of Hope” Concert in the Silver Concert Hall, the VLS team supplied, hung and focused over 100 ETC Selador® Desire® Studio Tungsten LED downlights and 48 Source Four® LED Series 2 Lustr® profile spots in the acoustical canopy and front-of-house positions. ETC ColorSource® PARs were used to mimic daylight through the stained-glass windows to create a stunning effect on video. The concert featured 19 violins that were once played by Jews imprisoned during the Holocaust. The venue’s all-LED system was the result of a shootout arranged by Vincent: “We acted like Switzerland and invited all the major LED manufacturers to show their product in the Maltz Center. ETC came out on top.”

Recent Cleveland downtown renovations in Playhouse Square, including its massive outdoor chandelier, made use of ETC Unison Mosaic® controls and outdoor LED fixtures.

Based in the Cincinnati office, Project Manager Trevor Shibley attended ETC’s 2016 international rep and dealer Workshop to get a better understanding of CueSystem and ArcSystem by GDS. “I had studied the specifications for them, but it’s really important to get a hands-on session.  These products, and many others from ETC, have been very useful for our school and worship projects.”

Looking to the future, Vincent sees a changing landscape: “There are hundreds of theaters in our territory, but thousands of opportunities for ‘architainment’ installations, and every space over 5,000 square feet needs control of some kind.”

Top photo: © Roger Mastroianni