Artists Propose Totally Tubular Light Show For Belly of the Wabash L


The Wabash Lights

Image courtesy of The Wabash Lights

A group of Chicago artists want to take the “seamy” out of the underbelly of the L in The Loop.

The Wabash Lights logoThe Wabash Lights is an art project that envisions hundreds of light tubes underneath the L tracks along Wabash Avenue.  The tube colors can be changed and animated at will.  The idea is to brighten up the area, which has underdone significant gentrification in recent years, but still has a way to go.

We envision the tube colors tracking the progress of the Orange, Pink, Purple, and Green Line trains as they move on the track above.  Brown probably wouldn’t work very well, but perhaps white could be substituted for that train.

The artists are equipped with a mission statement:

To transform the underside of the Wabash ave “l” tracks into customizable lighting canvas that highlights the authentic character of Chicago and illuminates Wabash ave between lake St and Van Buren St.
Image courtesy of The Wabash Lights

Image courtesy of The Wabash Lights

Other possibilities off the top of our heads:

  • Being able to tell tourists to follow the blinking yellow lights to get to the Art Institute
  • Red, Green and White illumination for Christmas
  • Red, White and Blue illumination for Independence Day, Memorial Day, or the next time we send a president to Washington
  • Changing colors to indicate the weather forecast, like the Weather Bell does over on the old Bell Savings Bank building.  If dozens of small town TV and radio stations across the midwest can do it, certainly the CTA can!

This isn’t the first project to illuminate the Loop L.  The CTA State/Lake elevated station had color-changing panels installed a few years ago.  It also projects color patterns onto the crosswalks below.

And there are strange little key lights on some of the support beams on the Wabash Avenue L pointing straight up. They are few and far between and don’t seem to so much illuminate the area as fail to illuminate anything farther than a few inches from their lenses.

We’ll find out more about The Wabash Lights at the end of this month.  Until then, here’s a link to the project’s Tumblr account.

Image courtesy of The Wabash Lights

Image courtesy of The Wabash Lights

Author: Editor

Editor founded the Chicago Architecture Blog in 2003, after a long career in journalism. He can be reached at

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