Chicago – When it costs over $5,000,000 to realize a project, each step towards completion becomes a landmark victory. The Wabash Lights, a long-term interactive light installation that transforms the underside of elevated train tracks, took a giant leap forward on February 4, 2016 when designers Jack Newell and Seth Unger switched on the first phase of their expansive project. This “Beta Test” phase consists of four, twelve-foot long LED light sections that run underneath the Wabash L tracks in Chicago’s Loop. The Beta Test will run for up to twelve months, allowing Newell, Unger, and their team to troubleshoot technical and design challenges as well as address safety issues before realizing the rest of the work.

Though at this stage the lights are not yet interactive, over the course of the next year the twelve-foot section will run preprogrammed lighting sequences designed by local digital and visual artists. The stretch will also serve as a data visualization platform and a tool for public art education.

“We’re excited that after four years of meetings, renderings, and steering this project through the approval process that we are finally seeing it come to life!” says Newell.

The Beta Test was funded by a Kickstarter campaign in July 2015 that yielded $59,480 from 918 backers. The full project, planned for a two-block stretch, is split into an additional four phases. The next milestone for the designers will be the creation of an app and website that allows the public to control the lights. Currently Newell and Unger are raising funds to realize the rest of the Wabash Lights project over a five year timeline.

Watch Wabash Light’s Beta Test section come to life in the video below!

Video by the Chicago Loop Alliance.