ComebackTown is published by David Sher to begin a discussion on a better Birmingham.
Today’s guest blogger is Atticus Rominger. If you’d like to be a guest blogger, please click here.
Birmingham has many fine wedding venues: Couples and their guests can take in grand views at Vulcan Park or The Club, have a fancy affair at the Historic Tutwiler Hotel – or snap a bridal photo under a downtown underpass. That’s right – an underpass.
If I’d told you a year ago the brides would drag their white dresses through a railroad underpass, you might have accused me of being TOO big on Birmingham. Now it’s a regular occurrence. Since the installation LightRails – a computerized LED lighting display – in the 18th Street underpass, people are drawn like moths to light.
I love it when a new LightRails pic or video pops up online. Like this time-lapsed holiday lights experience, or this series of college kids playing under the LED installation at the 18th Street underpass. The installation, designed by San Antonio artist Bill Fitzgibbons, was funded by the Community Foundation of Greater Birmingham’s Community Catalyst Fund donors and unveiled by REV Birmingham in June, 2013. Since then it’s become a community gathering place and a backdrop for many a family photo. But there’s a special place in my heart for the wedding photos that pop up every month or so.
Maybe it’s because the lights reflect the joy you feel in your heart on your wedding day. If I’m stretching, I’d posit that the installation reflects Birmingham’s past and its bright future, two things you also celebrate on your wedding day. (Ok, maybe I just took it too far.) Still, who can doubt the power of the memories created here by Stephanie and Josh, Kellie and Collier or Jemia and Adrian? “I knew immediately, that after the wedding I would want to make a stop at the ‘rainbow tunnel’ for pictures,” Jemia told me. “The bright colored lights were fun, pleasant and happy, a reflection of how we view ourselves as a couple.” That’s the power of place. That’s the power of public art.
REV and the Community Foundation embarked on this project in order to compound the effects of Railroad Park and Regions Field. By turning these dark and dinghy underpasses into City Center attractions in their own right, we are connecting these projects to the burgeoning Theatre, Entrepreneurial and Civil Rights Districts to the north. When visitors to Railroad Park can comfortably walk to a show at the new Lyric, shop on 3rd Avenue or grab a taco at the truck opposite Innovation Depot, we will have connected assets in a way that is more than the sum of their parts.
International travel blogs have written about the project. National design publications have too. Our partners at CAP report less vagrancy under the 18th Street Lights and Railroad Park reports more pedestrian use. THAT is catalytic development.
Recently, REV and the Community Foundation announced they’d be bringing additional lighting installations to 14th, 19th and 20th Street underpasses. The project will be called Birmingham Lights. A Facebook critic argued: “This is not public art… Pulbic (sic) art speaks to the interest and love of the people; it speaks to dissatisfaction with the status quo which produces high levels of poverty and segregation in Birmingham.” I, for one, think art must not be only subversive. It can be inspiring. It can be fun. It can impact culture and commerce. It can be celebratory.
So join me, and Stephanie, Josh, Jemia, Adrian, Kellie and Collier in celebrating Birmingham’s past and future. Let’s light up this city and illuminate our path forward.
Do you take this city to love and cherish? I do.
Atticus Rominger loves Birmingham. He’s the Chief Public Relations and Investment Officer of REV Birmingham.
Let’s turn Birmingham around. Click here to sign up for our newsletter. There’s power in numbers. (Opt out at any time)
David Sher is the publisher of ComebackTown, a co-founder of Buzz12 Advertising Agency and co-CEO of AmSher Collection Agency. He’s past Chairman of the Birmingham Regional Chamber of Commerce (BBA), Operation New Birmingham (REV Birmingham)), and the City Action Partnership (CAP).