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Merchandise Mart will light up Chicago River in 2018

Written by
Jonathan Samples

Imagine seeing giant projections of public art on the almost three-acre, riverfront façade of the Merchandise Mart. In 2018, that vision will become a reality. The city of Chicago and the Merchandise Mart announced on Sunday that the building's owner, Vornado Realty Trust, is moving forward with plans to bring the largest architectural projections ever seen in the city of Chicago to the exterior of the 25-story structure.

Architectural firm Valerio Dewalt Train Associates and creative studio Obscura Digital have been tabbed to develop a feasibility study for the project, which the city says will be a significant addition to Chicago's public art scene. "I commend the mart on this visionary project, as it will bring new energy to the Chicago River while strengthening our city’s reputation for iconic public art," Mayor Rahm Emanuel said in a news release.

Specific details about the project haven't been released, but Merchandise Mart representatives say it will add to the vibrant public art already displayed in Chicago and be a "dramatic cultural attraction" along the Riverwalk. Renderings released as part of Chicago's lighting framework plan give some idea as to what the Merchandise Mart might look like illuminated with large public art projections. According to the city, the privately funded project reflects the city's commitments to continue recreational development along the Chicago River and invest in public art projects throughout the city.

“We’re eager to welcome this incredible project into the pantheon of iconic public artworks in Chicago,” Mark Kelly, commissioner of the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events, said in the release. “In this Year of Public Art, this project reminds us that lighting, illumination, video and digital art will play an important role in the future of public art in Chicago.”

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