The Wabash Lights Kickstarter: Designer Duo Aims to Revitalize Chicago’s Loop with Public Art

wabash lights chicago public artLate last year, we wrote about The Wabash Lights, Chicago’s public art project aiming to set Chicago’s loop aglow along the underbelly of the elevated tracks on Wabash Avenue. The Wabash Lights is now “putting the public back in public art” through their month-long Kickstarter campaign. They’re hoping to garner interest in the project as well as funds for the first of its kind installation as a beta test to brighten up the Chicago loop.

The Wabash Lights will be an interactive light installation on the underside of the elevated train tracks on Wabash Avenue in the heart of Chicago’s Loop. Chicago-based designers Jack C. Newell and Seth Unger, who have spent four years working on making the project a reality, see potential in the historic and somewhat gritty and darkened area along the well-traveled avenue.


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. Infusing color and texture to spotlight the tracks and one of Chicago’s main streets by adding LED lighting tubes, as well as interacting with the public, is their way of celebrating the urban landscape. The installation will also make the stretch a little safer to explore, and hopefully help businesses in the area.

“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 $55,000, 30-day Kickstarter campaign is the first step for The Wabash Lights. The campaign will fund a beta test installation, which 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 idea is to put the public back in public art. 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.

Watch their new Kickstarter video for their beta test:

The Wabash Lights – Kickstarter Video from Jack C. Newell on Vimeo.

Photos and video courtesy of The Wabash Lights

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.”

The elevated tracks are a distinct aspect of Chicago’s urban landscape, so it’s exciting to see public art that can help highlight the city’s civic pride. Supporters of The Wabash Lights project can help fund the beta test now on Kickstarter, and continue to follow its progress via their website, Tumblr, and Twitter.

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