Gary, IN

Public art to illuminate downtown Gary

Ripple + Wilson will install a sculpture featuring multicolored lanterns outside of ArtHouse: A Social Kitchen in downtown Gary.

Downtown Gary is going to get a lot more colorful at night.

Renowned artist Theaster Gates’s ArtHouse: A Social Kitchen in downtown Gary will be wrapped in lights after two public art pieces are installed. Multicolored lanterns will hang on the outside of the building, giving it a dramatic appearance at night that’s being billed as a “showpiece” and a “visual calling card.”

A jury of artists, residents and developers chose a light-based sculpture and a facade installation from Virginia-based design team Ripple + Wilson for the new 15,000-square-foot culinary incubator, cafe and art gallery at 411 E. Fifth Ave. in downtown Gary. The large-scale pieces are being assembled and should be unveiled in October.

Forty artists from across the world had submitted ideas for ArtHouse, a visual and culinary arts hub that got funding through the Bloomberg Philanthropies Public Art Challenge.

“It was exciting to be a member of the panel charged with selecting one design team from so many talented artists to create public art pieces for the ArtHouse project in Gary,” Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson said. “Congratulations to Ripple + Wilson. We look forward to the unveiling of the design that will be a showpiece in the heart of our community for many years to come.”

Virginia-based Jeana Ripple of Ripple Architecture Studio and the University of Virginia’s Barbara Brown Wilson won commissions for their Light-Lab proposal, which will hang lanterns from a steel and cable frame to honor Gary’s manufacturing heritage. A sculpture called ILLUMINATION will highlight activity there, while a facade installation called SURFACE will make the building look more beautiful. Their proposal also includes a public “living room” area where people can hang out.

Ripple + Wilson's design for an outdoor public art piece at ArtHouse: A Social Kitchen in downtown Gary is shown.
Ripple + Wilson’s design for an outdoor public art piece at ArtHouse: A Social Kitchen in downtown Gary is shown.

Artist and Barlow Fine Arts Studio owner Michael Barlow, one of the jurors, said the public art pieces would be a “visual calling card for ArtHouse.”

“Ripple + Wilson was my choice to transform ArtHouse because their proposal addressed all of the criteria required for a highly visible, light-based installation,” he said.

The public artwork will illuminate the exterior of the building and enliven the street outside.

“We want to take advantage of the rare opportunity to claim something unique to Gary, something that looks forward, and something new,” Gary’s Department of Planning and Redevelopment Executive Director Joe Van Dyk said. “ArtHouse should be imaginative and different.”

Gates has been using arts and culture to redevelop neighborhoods in the South Side of Chicago, such as with the Stony Island Art Bank and the Arts Block at the University of Chicago.

“Artists are amazing at responding to big challenges within our cities,” Gates said. “Creating art for public spaces allows us to consider both the aesthetic dimensions of a situation while also working to address a social situation.”

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