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See the Finalists for the Ross Ave. Underpass Art Project
by Stephen Becker 15 Apr 2011

The City of Dallas will soon improve the stretch of Ross Avenue that crosses under 75 and leads from the Bryan Place Neighborhood into the Arts District. Thursday night, the three finalists for the public art project discussed their designs, which we’ve gathered and broken down here.


Thursday night, about 40 people gathered at the Latino Cultural Center to help decide what thousands of people will soon see every day.

At the meeting, the three finalists for the Ross Avenue Underpass Art Project showed their ideas and explained how they fit the project’s goal, which is primarily to provide a pedestrian- and cyclist-friendly, lit pathway from the Bryan Place neighborhood east of 75 to the Arts District. The finalists were picked by a selection committee from 41 applications, and the selection committee will today make its recommendation to the Public Art Committee. From there, the Public Art Committee will run it up the flagpole to the City Council and the Texas Department of Transportation, which will make sure the art doesn’t cause any safety problems. It’s an arduous process, but Kay Kallos, the city’s Public Art Program manager, told me last night that once the Public Art Committee agrees on a winner, it’s pretty much a done deal the rest of the way. The winner will be chosen today, but it might be a little while until we hear who that is. Until then, let’s meet the finalists, shall we?

Artist: Bill FitzGibbons

City of residence: San Antonio

Other projects: Lighting installations at the San Antonio Airport and Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston; other similar projects at the Alamo and Reykjavik City Hall.

About the design: FitzGibbons has done a project very similar to this one connecting the San Antonio Convention Center with the city’s St. Paul Square. The image above doesn’t really do it justice. What FitzGibbons would do is paint the archways a light blue color and then flood them with an ever-changing selection of LED lights. This pic from his site is a clearer example. His submission is the most straight-forward of the three, fairly conservative and the one the fewest number of people are likely to complain about. The one major drawback is that the budget would only allow him to light one side of the road passing under the highway.

Artist: Koryn Rolstad

City of residence: Seattle

Other projects: Dozens of projects around the world. Her work on the Valparaiso Prison Complex in Chile is similar in terms of its use of light as what she is proposing for Dallas.

About the design: Rolstad’s idea incorporates a couple of elements. She would create a glowing mural in the underpass that would incorporate colored shapes that she picked up from other Arts District buildings. In addition, she would place giant “glow sticks” (seen above) that would rise from the ground to well above the highway (pending TxDOT approval, of course). “I love the idea of a gateway,” she said last night. “I love the idea that from far away, you can see that way out there, there’s something new.” Rolstad’s project is easily the most ambitious of the three and seems to provide the biggest bang for the buck. The question is: Will it be too out there for the committee?

Artist: Joe O’Connell and Blessing Hancock

City of Residence: Tuscon, Arizona

Other projects: Lots of playful, lit-up sculptures around the Tuscon area

About the design: O’Connell and Hancock actually showed two ideas. The first (above) has them placing about 30 or so glowing shapes made from high-density polyethylene along the pedestrian pathway. Each are about a few feet in diameter and lit from within with LED lights. The second involves 14 suspended “chandeliers” made of recycled materials like bike parts. These, too, would be lit up. The artists said that a combination of the two ideas could be considered. The first idea takes the most innovative approach to lighting the underpass and offers opportunity for interaction with people passing by. But how well pedestrians will treat them (or how well birds will treat the chandeliers”) is still a question.

  • I guess Dallas is missing the 80’s

  • PJ

    How is something like this initiated? I live in the Design district of Dallas and would love if the bridge leading from that district to the Victory plaza area would undergo a transformation like this.

    • Stephen Becker

      PJ – From what I understand, this one started really with the Bryan Park Neighborhood Association, who pursued the idea with the city. This particular project is part of a series of improvements the neighborhood association has worked on in that area under the highway. You can get more information on how to work with the city on this sort of thing at http://www.dallasculture.org.

  • citiZen

    Where are the local artists proposals?