Audi Cape Fear, 255 Old Eastwood Road in Wilmington, will remain bathed in purple light through Sunday in honor of the late musician, Prince. Photo by Dave Cain of The Cain Gallery.

Audi Cape Fear, 255 Old Eastwood Road in Wilmington, will remain bathed in purple light through Sunday in honor of the late musician, Prince. Photo by Dave Cain of The Cain Gallery.

Light on a legacy: Audi dealership pays tribute to Prince

Hilary Snow, April 28, 2016

To George Hartner, light is a sign of celebration.

You ignite the candles on a birthday cake before joining in song, hang softly glowing lanterns or a dazzling disco ball to set the scene for backyard barbecues and dance parties. And it’s not officially Christmas until that warm glow of the white bulbs on the tree.

Even in the midst of sadness, Hartner believes a little light can take away the darkness just a little and serve as a reminder of brighter times.

So when Audi Cape Fear co-owner AJ Aliah asked Hartner, who runs Outdoor Illumination, to change the car dealership’s lighting scheme to purple last week, a light bulb went off.

“Lighting things is happy…There’s healing in that, and we can bring some healing to others by doing it,” Hartner said.

The purple is, of course, in honor of the iconic, eccentric and wholly unique rock god Prince, who died unexpectedly at his Paisley Park estate in Minnesota on April 21 at the age of 57.

As generations of fans across the globe mourned the massive loss, so, too, was Hartner—who entered adulthood concurrent with Prince—reeling from the news.

“I instantly went back to that place and time that was formative to me. It affected me so much because I was a fan of what is now classic rock but I was really liking what was going on with the punk scene and now comes along Talking Heads and Blondie. And around the same time Prince comes on the scene and it’s like, ‘Who is this?’

“The thing that blew my mind about Prince early on was, I noticed right away that he could play guitar like Hendrix, and I remember thinking, okay, this guy is the next Hendrix…But he also moves like James Brown and sings like Michael Jackson and channels David Bowie. And then I realized that he was my age,” Hartner recalled.

A little lost in reminiscing, Hartner admits Aliah’s idea to turn lighting into a local tribute to “the purple one” was one that had not occurred to him.

“He beat me to it,” Harnter said, laughing. “But it was genius and I said, ‘Let’s do it.’”

In turn, Aliah confesses the brilliant concept was not an original. It was sparked when his wife, Courtney, showed him Facebook photos of major landmarks like the Lowry Avenue Bridge in Minneapolis and New Orleans’ Superdome that were given a purple hue in recognition of Prince’s passing.

“I never saw him live unfortunately,” said Aliah, who was in high school when Prince was coming swiftly into his reign. “To me, though it’s one of those things where you don’t appreciate it as much until it’s gone…So, seeing all this stuff on social media, I realized, wait a minute, we can wash the Audi wall in purple.”

Hartner and his wife and business partner, Jane Cockrell, were instantly on board, heading out the evening of April 22 to get to work on reprogramming the lighting system and installing illumination. Hartner said the computerized system contains literally 16 million different colors.

After Cockrell picked out the perfect shade of purple and Hartner had the lights in, a passer-by – a professional photographer in town for a wedding shoot – pulled over.

“He said, ‘I am the biggest Prince fan and this is so awesome, I had to stop and take photos’,” Hartner said.

Aliah has been hearing a lot of that lately, which is saying something considering Audi’s modern building is known for its unique nighttime lighting.

“I’ve gotten some fanfare for the LED lighting before, but I’ve never had this much,” he said. “I have had so many people thanking me for changing them to [purple]…and these were truly diehard fans. It was unexpected how many people have come up to me and texted me and called me about it.”

Unexpected, perhaps, but understandable for both Hartner and fellow musician Aliah.

“He was a phenomenon on every continent,” Hartner said.

Aliah, who describes himself not as a “diehard Prince fan” but as a “diehard Prince believer,” agrees.

As a teenager picking up the electric guitar during the “Purple Rain” craze, Aliah said his connection to Prince came through his wailing, intricate and complex solos.

“For me, I didn’t own all of his albums or listen to all of his songs but I would hear one and go, ‘wait, whoa, I’ve got to learn that lick.’ But he was so much more than just a guitar player. He was so profoundly talented as a human. And there are not many people out there like that.”

No matter how they relate to Prince’s music, fans are connected by their connection to the music, Aliah and Hartner said.

Hartner felt the connection as he listened to his wife recount silly teenage tales of trying to imitate dance moves, as he chatted with some 20-something co-workers who were just last week discovering his music, as a stranger pulled along the roadside to snap some pictures.

And as Aliah watches his pre-teen daughter, Marley, put together her own rendition of “Purple Rain,” he knows a light as bright as Prince won’t go out anytime soon.

Audi Cape Fear, 255 Old Eastwood Road, will keep its homage to Prince up through Sunday, and Aliah already plans to make it an annual acknowledgement of the anniversary of the performer’s death.

Port City Daily. April 28, 2015. Light on a legacy: Audi dealership pays tribute to Prince.  Original article >

Lumina Station To Partner With Other Local Businesses During October In Support Of Breast Cancer Awareness

Posted October 2015

Hues Of Pink Will Adorn The Shopping Village By The Beach And The Lumina Station Restaurants And Boutiques Will Feature Special Promotions Throughout The Month

October 1, 2015, Wilmington, N.C. — Lumina Station is partnering with Audi Cape Fear, and Outdoor Illumination to support Breast Cancer Awareness and raise money for local based charities Pretty In Pink and the Pink Ribbon Project.

Throughout the month of October, all of Lumina Station’s lighting will be changed to pink courtesy of Outdoor Illumination, the area’s premier landscape and architectural lighting company. Our four restaurants and several retailers including 19 Hundred, Halligan’s Public House, Brasserie Du Soleil, Port Land Grille, Paysage, Tickled Pink, Airlie Moon, Island Passage, Aqua Fedora, J. McLaughlin and Harbour Club Day Spa and Salon, will host special promotions and sales, donating a portion of their proceeds to Pretty In Pink. In addition, a special CD, “I Wanna Be Free”, recorded by Marley Aliah and written by Outdoor Illumination’s co-founder, George Hartner will be sold for $3 at participating Lumina Station retailers and restaurants to raise funds for the Pink Ribbon Project.

Lumina Station’s friends at Audi Cape Fear will also participate in the month long awareness campaign with the Great Pink Wall of Audi. Every night throughout the month of October, on the corner of Eastwood Road and Racine Ave., an LED pink light show, choreographed to “I Wanna Be Free” and designed by Outdoor Illumination will play nightly.

“Pretty in Pink and the Pink Ribbon Project are two of the area’s top non-profit organizations leading the charge to fight breast cancer and making sure women have the support they need when dealing with the effects of the disease”, said Sue Sielecki, general manager of Lumina Station. “Lumina Station is honored to be partnered with these two organizations as well as Audi Cape Fear and Outdoor Illumination to help in drawing attention to Breast Cancer, which impacts approximately 300,000 in the U.S. each year.”

For more information about Lumina Station, visit, call (910) 256-0900, or follow Lumina Station on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

About Lumina Station

Lumina Station, the shopping village by the sea and inspired by the beloved Wrightsville Beach dance pavilion opened in 1996. Beautiful landscaping, whimsical sculptures and storybook bridges adorn the property and the tenant lineup includes thirteen stores, six restaurant and cafes, and four service businesses.

George Hartner, Outdoor Illumination
(910) 270-6262 or email

The backyard lighting feature at the home of Dr. Taylor and Mrs. Bettie Ann Johnson, 516 Moss Tree Drive, Landfall. The lighting was installed by George Hartner of Outdoor Illumination. Staff Photo By Mike Spencer/STAR-NEWS

Let it Glow

Designers’ bright ideas bring beauty, drama to local landscapes

By Susan Hart
Star-News Correspondent and Photos by Mike Spencer, staff photographer

Jane Cockrell and her husband, George Hartner, deal in moonshine.

When the couple gave up successful careers in the corporate world a few years ago, they had two objectives: to do something creative and to work outdoors. Making money along the way wouldn’t hurt either.

After months of research, the Gaithersburg, Md., residents started a landscape lighting company, Outdoor Illumination of Coastal Carolina, and in 2005 moved to Wilmington. They felt the prospects were excellent in the rapidly growing landscaping/horticulture market.

Now, less than two years later, the Hartners have a thriving business. Cockrell is the lighting designer and business manager and her husband is the operations manager responsible for installation and maintenance.

Both share a passion for their work – making landscapes a brighter place for Cape Fear residents. And they are quick to point out that outdoor lighting has come a long way from the days of floodlights and tiki torches.

For example, instead of high-watt bulbs, the couple uses only 20-watt infra red lights that generate about 35 watts of power, an eco-friendly measure that’s also more cost efficient.

They also put their lighting systems on timers so electricity is not being wasted during the night – unless homeowners want light for security reasons.

Hartner and Cockrell’s lighting designs tend to be subtle but dramatic. They don’t like harsh spotlights and reduce glare by using directional lights and softer well lights sunk into the ground.

They’re adept at duplicating moonlight, like they did at the home of Taylor and Bettie Anne Johnson in Landfall.

Warming up

In a small sitting area on the side of the Johnson house, discreet directional lighting bathes a lone bench and surrounding plants in a soft, blue-tinged glow.

“This really does look like natural moonlight,” Cockrell said.

The couple uses moonlighting in more expansive areas too – like the large live oak that canopies the deck in the Ability Garden at the New Hanover County arboretum. Directional lights mounted on the tree some 30 feet up makes visitors swear they’re standing under a full moon – on even the darkest night.

The Johnsons, who wanted to add better outdoor lighting to their home so they could spend more time outdoors in the evening, met the lighting designers at the Wilmington Garden Show. To make the Johnson home more welcoming, Cockrell and Hartner used a technique called “grazing” to wash the front walls with light and added cross-lighting for the steps and doorway. Uplighting brings a cluster of river birches into focus in the front yard.

Like a necklace of bright beads circling the landscape, pools of light illuminate specific features in the backyard overlooking a lake. In one corner of the backyard, light spread evenly across a group of ornamental grasses and a palm captures the plants’ unique textures.

The Johnsons now have views of their garden at night from most of the rooms in the house “My favorite part is standing here in the kitchen and looking out,” said Bettie Ann Johnson. “As I make dinner, I can see it all.”

Dramatic finish

At the home of Jim and Helyn Wisner on Greenville Loop Road, the Outdoor Illumination team took a more dramatic approach. They lit small sabal minor palms so they are silhouetted against a yellow wall surrounding a small courtyard. This “silhouetting” technique also works especially well with architectural plants like cactus and palms.

Local landscape architect Donna Ray Mitchell recommended Outdoor Illuminations and collaborated with the company on a lighting design that brought nighttime drama to the Wisners’ garden. Especially striking is the area around the large pool and columned loggia in the rear of the house. At one end of the pool, soft lighting puts stately pines into silhouette against the night sky.

Mitchell, who is best known for her work on Bald Head Island and is now working on the landscaping design for Wilmington’s new Convention Center, calls lighting the “icing on the cake” of landscaping.

“Subtle effects can add so much to the beauty of the landscaping and all the money you have invested in your property,” she said. But don’t overdo it, “Balance is very important.”

Star News Online. January 11, 2008. Let it glow.  Original article >