Want a Better Wabash Avenue? Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is

The Wabash Lights

Image courtesy of The Wabash Lights

Ten months ago we told you about an interesting proposal to renovate, revitalize, and quite literally light up Wabash Avenue in The Loop.  It’s called The Wabash Lights, and involves lining the underside of the L tracks on Wabash with hundreds of illuminated colored tubes.

Sure, it’s an art project, but it’s also a renovation project — trying to turn the slightly run-down commercial corridor into something better.  Something more interesting.

A week ago, the project’s public relations firm sent us an e-mail to let us know that the men behind the idea, Jack Newell and Seth Unger, got permission from the CTA and a bunch of other TLAs to build a small test version of the Wabash Lights.  But they need $55,000 to do it.

We checked the couch cushions and only found 42 cents, a bunch of old Cheerios, and a remote control that doesn’t seem to belong to anything in the house.  Fortunately, Newell and Unger weren’t counting on our largesse, and started a Kickstarter campaign trying to raise the money that way.

But instead of just telling you about it back in June, we thought we’d sit on the news for a while and see if anyone was really interested in the project.  It turns out… maybe.

As of this writing, nine days after the Kickstarter campaign started, they’ve raised $17,557 from 291 people.  That’s an average of $60 per person.  Pretty good.  Some people have actually donated more than $750 each!

So the Lights on Wabash beta test is 32% of the way to its goal.  If you’re feeling generous, or artsy, or maybe you’d just like to see Wabash not suck, here’s the link to the Kickstarter campaign again.  You know what to do.

Press release follows:

Putting the Public Back in Public Art

Kickstarter Campaign to Fund First of its Kind Installation, The Wabash Lights

Chicago designers Jack C. Newell and Seth Unger launched a month-long Kickstarter campaign to fund the beta test of their public art project, The Wabash Lights.

The Wabash Lights is an interactive light installation on the underside of the elevated train tracks on Wabash Avenue in the heart of Chicago’s Loop. Designed by the public, this first of its kind piece of public art grants visitors to The Wabash Lights’ website the ability to create and schedule unique snapshots and sequences of digital expression.

“We believe this project will jumpstart the formation of a unique district in the heart of Chicago’s Loop by transforming the “L” tracks into a canvas for a dynamic, interactive, digital art.” says Unger.

The Kickstarter is funding a beta test installation. The beta test will run for up to twelve months to troubleshoot technical and design challenges and address safety issues. Following the beta test the designers will kick off a capital campaign, seeking funding from private donors, corporate partners, and foundations to support the full installation.

The $50,000, 30-day Kickstarter campaign is the first step for The Wabash Lights – a project four years in the making – to become a reality.

“Everyone who gives to this Kickstarter campaign will be on the ground floor of something truly transformative,” says Newell. “We hope our backers will share our excitement and be a part of bringing a first of its kind piece of public art to life.”

Backers of the Kickstarter will receive a range of rewards to match with each donation level, such as t-shirts, original Wabash Lights artwork, and behind the scenes access throughout the installation process.

Newell continues, “This project is transformative due to its interactive nature. Anyone with access to a computer or smart phone will be able to design what The Wabash Lights do, whether they are a student, a senior citizen, or a renowned artist – this work of art will be the first to be created and continually re-designed by the public.”

Says Unger, “Chicagoans have great civic pride. The Wabash Lights is a celebration of the elevated tracks, which are a unique part of Chicago’s urban fabric. It’s also the next step in what public art can be, which fits into Chicago’s role as an arts leader.”

Author: Editor

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

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