The Wabash Lights: A Dream Project's First Unveiling

By Carrie McGath in Arts & Entertainment on Nov 4, 2014 4:15PM

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(Photo Courtesy of the Artists)

Last week Chicagoans had the opportunity to see the genesis, plan and first prototypes for The Wabash Lights, an interactive public art project conceived by artists, Seth Unger and Jack C. Newell. Rooms in the offices of the Gensler architecture firm were divided to show the different steps of their process while encouraging visitors to voice their opinions and hopes for the work. A dry-erase board asked questions of the community, including their associations with Wabash Avenue and its "L" tracks. The varied adjectives people used to describe this street went from negative to positive associations, but encouraging new perceptions is a large part of the goal for Unger and Newell's project

The crescendo of the night was the lighting of a prototype. Seeing even that lone line of light, it was easy to imagine the impact the final work could have along Wabash Avenue once underway. The project will begin as a Kickstarter in early 2015 and creators are "looking to seed $50,000" with the campaign. Other funds will be collected via private and corporate donors. 

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(Seth Unger and Jack C. Newell with Wabash Lights prototype. Photo by Carrie McGath.)

The installation will be up for a minimum of one year—though the artists hope it runs longer—once the lights are attached. Designed to withstand Chicago's extreme weather and the rocking tracks of these busy stations, the project will not only be unique and aesthetically pleasing but an impressive undertaking from an engineering perspective under Technical Director, Justin Wardell of Intelligent Lighting Creations.

Attendees at Wednesday night's discussion and interactive event illustrated the city's love of public art and there was a palpable excitement in the air for The Wabash Lights. The event showed the deep and deliberate thinking of the artists and their team to make something so ambitious a reality to be enjoyed by Chicagoans and visitors alike.