Thursday, July 26, 2007

Q&A #6: Flat Black Stage

(Before reading this post and jumping in on the conversation, please check out the explanation of the Q/A Series I posted on Read Here First! on July 10, will help you understand a little more. Thanks!)

"We are in the process of completing a new community life center which includes a stage in the fellowship hall. It is time to consider the paint color for the stage walls and floor.

Some of our folks visited your church lately with the youth group. (One of the persons) said that your stage area is black. That's what I am considering but we have some members who want the stage area painted the same color as the fellowship hall which will be a fairly light nutreal color.

Is it possible for you to send me an email with the pros and cons of having black walls for the stage area? I know this is asking alot, but I would really appreciate your help."

My Response:
"Our stage (see photo above) and the entire top 1/3 of our worship center are painted flat black. Here are the pros for us for painting using the flat black:

> Flat black (use flat...if you use anything with a gloss, all you see are reflections of everything else...flat black means no reflection or sheen) gave us the theatre look and feel that we wanted. Our Sunday mornings are what I like to call “big”, from music, video, drama, speaking, etc., everything we do is meant to have a big impact on people, and the black stage helps give that feel.
> Anything painted flat black becomes secondary to whatever else you are looking puts the focus on everything on the stage and off of the stage/walls itself. Anything with color or lights becomes the primary focus. Our instruments, people (as long as they’re not wearing dark clothing), video screen, etc. really stand out and just look good. It’s like composing a good photograph...why allow the ugly, blurry, pointless background to overshadow the person(s) who are supposed to be the focus in the foreground? Anything other than flat black will do that to the people and things on your stage.
> Related to the last point, flat black is basically unnoticeable. People will only notice it if you’re repainting the stage from a previous color AND/OR if you make a big deal out of changing the paint color (ie. Bring this to a church vote...), and the only ones who will complain are the ones who will complain no matter what color you paint it... Anyone new who walks into the room will notice everything other than the black, unless they’re musicians or some kind of artists, and those are the people who usually like the black, so that’s a good thing.
> Flat black is easy to keep clean and repaint. The only thing you have to be careful of is lots of dust build up because thick dust will show, but it’s still much easier than dealing with smudges and scratches and stains on a lighter colored wall...basically anything other than flat black shows those blemishes. Flat black can take more of a beating than other colors and finishes. And, you never have to worry about matching colors...flat black from one store or can is almost always the same flat black from another.
> Related to our ceiling. The highest point in our ceiling is about 40 feet, which is very tall and makes the room feel way too big. And, the ceiling was basically white plastic insulation and red steel rafters. If we had done anything with the ceiling other than flat black, it would have been the first thing you would have noticed when walking into the room...instead, your eyes are drawn to the more aesthetically pleasing things in the room. We also painted the top 1/3 of all the walls in the room flat black, which made the ceiling feel much shorter and the room feel much smaller. This will also allow us to later install theatrical lighting in the ceiling without anyone ever noticing that it’s never been there.

There are only three “cons” that I can think of with flat black:

> You have to clean for dust if you have any ledges, but again, that’s only occasionally (maybe every 6 months), and very easy to do.
> If your walls are drywall, any large dings or scratches will bring out the white wall behind the paint, but again, touching up is easier with flat black than with any other color or paint type (just always use a roller).
>People will complain, but again, people will complain no matter what you do...the complainers always either leave the church or stop complaining when they realize we were right, and either way works for us. :)

When I made the call to paint the stage and top 1/3 of the room flat black, both our contractor and my pastor weren’t exactly sure. But, they trusted my decision, and as soon as they saw it the first time, they understood why. There is absolutely nothing spiritually or Biblically “wrong” with painting part or all of a church building black, and in the end, it will look good if it’s done by a professional painter."


MilePost13 said...

These are my thoughts, coming from a guy who took one thatre class in college and is learning by experience. I'm sure there are some more pros, and some serious cons, and I'd love to hear more from you on the subject.

And, I'll try to get a pic of our stage and ceiling up ASAP.


riverflow said...

To me, this all comes back to what you keep saying, Nate, about vision and focus. If a church leadership both knows and verbalizes its mission and purpose--and what happens on the platform/stage, and why--then you could probably paint it pink (ok, maybe not) and it wouldn't matter.

Re: Nothing spiritually or Biblically "wrong" about black. Now there's a thread for the WT Theology Forum! I agree with you, Nate. But this seems to be a touchy subject for some nonetheless; in our church, for example, we once put some light-darkening black drapes temporarily in our windows behind the stage/"pulpit" area. You'd think we'd begun a palm-reading class or something. Some people are just unnerved about black! (And vocal about it as well.)

Which brings us back to vision and strong leadership....


MilePost13 said...

I agree, Steve. Even a church with misguided vision is going to be more unified than a church without any vision. I recently read a comment somewhere from somebody (can't remember) which basically said that vision is the primary role of a leader, and I tend to agree. I know that, for our lead pastor, vision is one of his top priorities, which is why we can paint things black without any complaints.


Jim Puckett said...

I personally love the flat black. But as with many things - context has so much to do with it. I have just moved from Ohio to Texas for a new assignment. The worship center iis somewhat tranditional with hardwood walls behind the choir (which is great for choir sound). I can't imagine getting out the sprayer and laying flat black on this high quality hardwood. In a multi purpose room or a new construct - absloultely. The church I just left had a pretty large stage but there was a center section with a lighting grid above it etc - so the congregation was used to a concert "look". We started by putting up black curtains on the wall- but eventually painted it black so we would get the benefit of the hard painted surface for the choir.
It takes away lighting shadows - as has been mentioned - it draws focus to other things not the structure or decor of the building.

Like many things in ministry - this is one of those things where you have to look at the hand you are dealt and ask if this issue is a "deal breaker". Do the benefits outweigh the rest? On an exisiting building I wouldn't do it just to do it and get that theatrical look.

We could ask the same question with the slant of would you install curtains that close - allowing scene changes - walk offs etc behind a closed curtain.

MilePost13 said...

good stuff, Jim!