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The Merchandise Mart Will Be Lit Up With A Massive New Art Projection

By Stephen Gossett in Arts & Entertainment on Mar 13, 2017 4:12PM

If Portland’s unofficial motto is “put a bird on it,” Chicago's might very well be "put a light on it." From The 606 to seesaws to "L" tracks, the city seems to love nothing more than working the intersection of public art and big, bright lights. We can now officially add the Merchandise Mart to that list, as well.

Projection engineers Obscura Digital and A+I Architects will collaborate on a large-scale illumination project that will bedazzle the entire south, River-facing side of the massive Mart, the City of Chicago announced Monday.

“The redevelopment of Chicago’s riverfront is vital to our ongoing efforts to attract 55 million visitors annually to the City of Chicago by 2020, creating new jobs and injecting millions of dollars into our local economy,” said Mayor Emanuel in a press release.

The mayor, of course, never misses an opportunity to tout the city's recent run of tourism success. Will the Mart lights be enough to carry the trend, especially as cities around the country are predicting a dip of foreign visitors in the wake of President Donald Trump's travel ban? That might be too much to ask, but judging from a rendering put forth by the city in a 2014 RFP and Obscura's portfolio of past large-canvas architectural light-ups, it should at the very least look pretty cool.

The announcement jibes with the city's yearlong doubling down on public-art installations and Emanuel's "meeting of the mayors" to urban-waterway development with city leaders from around the world—which, perhaps not coincidentally, is underway on Monday.

According the the city, the project will be privately funded and is scheduled to debut in 2018.

[Shouts to Curbed for showing us toward the RFP.]