Drake’s “Hotline Bling” video has been viewed 94 million times and counting on YouTube but its wider cultural effect has come through the remixes and memes. We’ve seen Drake dancing with a tennis racket and making a pizza, and of course seen the mashup of the Pumpkin Man to the song.  

Those are “Hotline Bling” replicas. Philadelphia, in a way, has an original. The SkySpace, inside the home of the Chestnut Hill Friends, features a light show designed by artist James Turrell with the same color-changing views as the room Drake dances in.

Though neither Drake nor the video’s director have claimed Turrell provided any direct inspiration, Drake has expressed admiration of Turrell before. Turrell has said he didn’t work with Drake but released a great statement about the video through his lawyer: 

“While I am truly flattered to learn that Drake f*cks with me, I nevertheless wish to make clear that neither I nor any of my woes was involved in any way in the making of the Hotline Bling video.”

For anyone who has been to SkySpace or seen some of Turrell’s other works of art, a resemblance is apparent.

Screen Shot 2015-11-19 at 8.13.40 AM
Credit: YouTube
Chestnut Hill Skyspace
Chestnut Hill Skyspace Credit: YouTube

“Being in these different lights that’s kind of what you experience when you’re sitting in the SkySpace,” said Jon Landau, clerk of the Chestnut Hill Friends Meeting. “These dramatic color changes that are really vibrant and that’s kind of what Drake was getting at in his performance.”

SkySpace has been around since 2013. The idea for it stems from a decade earlier. The Chestnut Hill Friends Meeting needed a new meetinghouse, and many members wanted to add something to the community in addition to building a new gathering place. They hoped to possibly attract more members. Philadelphia’s Quaker community numbers about 10,000 and used to be much larger.

A Turrell SkySpace is featured in Houston, and Landau and his family had been wowed by it. Turrell is a Quaker himself. Growing up, his grandmother used to take him to meetings. When he got bored from people sitting in silence, he would ask her what to do. She told him to greet the light. The Skyspace is a manifestation of that concept.

Chestnut Hill Skyspace
Chestnut Hill Skyspace Credit: (c) James Turrell, photo by Terry Foss

Turrell agreed to help design one for Chestnut Hill. About 6,000 people have visited the Skyspace since it opened, including people from as far away as Scandinavia. The presentation is about an hour long. It combines the lights with natural light from sunrises or sunsets to create an atmosphere that many visitors says separates them from consciousness in ways few other things can.

“I felt like somebody had given me LSD,” said local artist Stuart Shils. “I’d gone there with people who’d never had drug experiences who’d never had their minds leave their body and they’re sitting there like, ‘what in the world is going on here?’”

Landau said no visitors have yet to come see the Skyspace based solely on the Drake video, but he expects to hear that in the coming weeks.

Want to go?: The Skyspace is open Sunday evenings for the next several months, as well as on special dates the Friday after Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve and Valentine’s Day. Visitors are encouraged to register in advance. Admission is free but donations are accepted. 

Mark Dent is a reporter/curator at BillyPenn. He previously worked for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, where he covered the Jerry Sandusky scandal, Penn State football and the Penn State administration. His...