I wonder: What are the blue, reflective panels on the sides of the Lamar underpass near Whole Foods?
“Blue lights under the bridges shine at night.” So says a description (see C19) of a piece of Austin artwork that quite literally does just that.
Austinites breeze past the subject of this week’s I Wonder, many without a moment’s notice. The reflective panels lining the sides of the railroad underpass on Lamar near Whole Foods are not just road signs but are part of a larger artwork piece entitled “Moments.”
During the day the blue signs “act as shadow indicators of the day’s progression,” and at night they glow from cars’ headlights.
The artwork was commissioned through the City of Austin’s Art in Public Places (AIPP) program. AIPP collaborates with both local and national artists to create cultural landmarks.
“In 2000, city council passed a resolution directing AIPP to perform a feasibility study for an artwork enhancement of the Lamar railroad bridge underpass,” AIPP administrator Meghan Turner said in an e-mail.
Turner went on to explain that in 2001, the AIPP program issued a call for artists or architects to design the project intended “to help create a vibrant gateway from South Austin into the growing commercial district.”
Twenty-eight proposals were submitted, and Carl Trominski was selected by a panel and advisors to design the work.
Local contractors installed “Moments” in 2003.
“The completed work included a pattern of painted squares on the retaining walls, blue lights on the east and west retaining walls under the bridge, and a solar array to generate energy for the lights,” Turner said.
However, the piece has had a rough ride since its installation. Turner says it was vandalized in 2005, and all of the solar panels were stolen. In 2008, several signs on the east side had to be temporarily removed to allow construction of the Gables residences nearby.
“Moments” cost the city $45,000, which included: Trominski’s fee for design, coordination and oversight; materials and labor (power-washing and painting the retaining wall, obtaining and installing lights, signs, solar panel array); insurance; permitting; and street closures.
Turner says the funds came from a portion of the hotel occupancy tax (which is generated by tourists staying at Austin hotels) that goes to support the arts.