Last Two Viaduct Art Projects Are Near Completion In Detroit’s New Center

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The final two underpass art projects are finally installed and operational along the railroad viaduct along Second and Third avenues in Detroit. But no, they’re not finished. Meanwhile “Reflector,” the project completed way back in 2015 in the viaduct at Cass Avenue, needs repairs because of vandalism and several truck crashes.

One other twist: The original plan for the Second Avenue viaduct, a project called “Resonance” by a three-person team calling itself R+D Lab, was scrapped due to complications after the original team was unable to do the installation. In its place, Midtown Detroit Inc. chose Detroit-based agency Mindfield to create a work it calls “Points of Origin.”

All work should be completed this spring.

The three viaducts have been re-imagined as part of a contest sponsored by Midtown Detroit, the New Economy Initiative and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. The contest sought creative ideas to remake spooky and foreboding underpasses into vibrant, light-filled pedestrian pathways.

Third Avenue

“Light Bender,” an interactive light exhibit, is roughly two-thirds complete, said Gabriel Hall, one of the partners on the project with New D Media Arts.

“The ceiling lights and the pedestrian path lights are up and functional,” he wrote in an email. “Have you been down there in the last 6 months? We put those first two sets of lights in back in July/August of 2016. We will be doing the final arch lights at the end of March!”

The installation is perhaps the most subtle of the three, at least in the daylight hours, with dark-painted cement archways set against bands of overhead colored LED lights that morph colors as you pass underneath, giving a sense of movement and progression.

When complete, users will be able to connect to a local hot spot, then to a website from which they can change bands of light by swiping their finger over them on their mobile device.

Second Avenue

“Points of Origin” also isn’t yet complete, though you wouldn’t know it.

“We are still working on lighting,” said Nicole Baragwanath of Mindfield, who added that “the photographs will be much better once we’ve been able to complete lighting and document it.”

While I wasn’t able to get much in the way of a description of the project or the thinking behind it, “Points of Origin” so far is comprised of slabs of plywood, painted black, with what appears to be a cityscape or urban grid cut out, like a street map. It’s backlit with LED lighting.

I look forward to seeing the final version and hearing more about it from the creators.

Midtown Detroit Inc. also plans to make repairs this spring to “Reflector” on Cass Avenue to reinstall light fixtures and protective cages after lights were either vandalized or damaged by trucks that misjudged the height of the overpass, said Annmarie Borucki, the organization’s special projects manager.

Borucki said the projects have been delayed in part by getting the concepts approved by the railroad company, but mostly by how long it takes to order LED lighting products.

“Had we known all of this we would have approached this very differently,” she said.

Midtown Detroit hopes to maintain the installations for five years, Borucki said.

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