Heartfelt is an interactive installation at The Kennedy Center that celebrates human connection through touch

When The Kennedy Center commissioned artist Ekene Ijeoma to create Heartfelt, Ijeoma reached out to Patten Studio to create the electronics and software needed to enable the interaction he envisioned. The project uses technology as a way to foster face to face human connection, a theme throughout much of our work.

When visitors touch two or more of Heartfelt’s 31 lighted stainless steel poles, the poles light up even brighter. By using people as conductors to close the circuits between lights, Ijeoma explores how social, cultural, and political networks form in cities. The tactile interaction and spatial layout of the piece create a playful opportunity for a shared experience.

Interacting with the installation inspires visitors to explore various poses, often contorting to touch a third pole with a leg or forehead, or with another person. Visitors can hold hands to create longer circuits that connect more distant poles. To enable this interaction, we designed a circuit to send a very small electrical signal through visitors’ bodies. We also developed embedded software to sense visitors’ touches and control the lights accordingly.

The Kennedy Center is the nation’s busiest performing arts center, hosting approximately 2,000 events each year. Heartfelt is installed in the REACH plaza, an outdoor performance venue on the south side of the Center that opened in December 2019. Heartfelt is accessible to the public from 10am to midnight daily.

Patten Studio
Software, Electronics
  • The Kennedy Center
  • Ekene Ijeoma
    Concept, Design, Creative Direction
  • DCM Fabrication
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