The Wabash Lights: Celebrating Chicago's Mighty Artery

By Carrie McGath in Arts & Entertainment on Oct 28, 2014 4:30PM

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The Wabash Lights, courtesy of the artists

Jack C. Newell and Seth Unger will be setting the “L” tracks along Wabash Avenue alight soon, highlighting this iconic fixture of the city with their public art project, “The Wabash Lights.” Via email, Newell explained the thought process behind the project. “When you think of Paris you think of the Eiffel Tower, with New York City you think Times Square, and in Chicago you think of the L.” Co-creator, Unger continued, citing what this street that glides though the Loop represents. "Wabash Avenue is quintessential Chicago: gritty, historic, authentic and full of untapped potential. We want to create something that celebrates this, instead of hiding it."

Chicagoans themselves, Newell and Unger want to bring this fixture of the urban landscape to the fore, injecting it with color and texture to celebrate and spotlight both the “L” and one of Chicago’s main streets, Wabash Avenue.

This project is perfect for public art installation since it is a well-traveled street and an “L” that not only connects so many parts of the city but also its people as a busy station for commuters. Newell says, "Often, public art is commissioned by few, created by one, but claims to be for all— and so that rarely seems to be the case. The interactive nature of The Wabash Lights transforms a piece of public infrastructure into a canvas for anyone, you, your grandmother, a child, to express themselves and be a part of the art. That is something that hasn't really been done before."

The project has been in the minds of its creators for a while now, but has successfully gained the needed support to make this concept a reality. Chicago Artists Month, held in October each year, will continue on in this project according to Unger. "In keeping with the spirit of Chicago Artists Month, our event is presented as an exhibition, allowing attendees to discover and interact with the idea of The Wabash Lights in a gallery-like setting."

Tomorrow, Wednesday Oct. 29, Jack Newell and Seth Unger invite the public to attend an interactive discussion of the project. The event is free and will be at Gensler in the Loop beginning at 6:30 p.m. Please go here to RSVP and be a part of this vibrant public art installation.