Friday, September 21, 2018

Julian Emerson

Downtown efforts light the night

  • je-baroque1-092217

    The "Baroque" sculpture located near the Grand Avenue pedestrian bridge shimmers on a recent night.

    Staff photo by Julian Emerson
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  • je-phoenixbridge-092217

    Lights are being tested on the Phoenix Park Bridge.

    Staff photo by Julian Emerson
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The nighttime sky in downtown Eau Claire is a bit brighter these days, thanks to two artistic endeavors. 

On Wednesday night I took in views of the “Baroque” sculpture and the Phoenix Park Bridge. Both were lit with attractive colors, providing a sharp contrast to their otherwise dark surroundings.

The last time I saw the “Baroque” sculpture alight with seemingly flowing waves of color, the intricately woven-wire structure was surrounded by hundreds of curious onlookers and was accompanied by eerie, haunting music that seemed to emanate from outside the structure despite the fact an organist performed inside it. 

On Wednesday night I experienced the sculpture created by renowned Italian artist Edoardo Tresoldi again, but this time the setting was very different. Instead of viewing it amid a large crowd attending the 2016 Eaux Claires Music & Arts Festival, I stood next to the striking structure now located just beyond the west end of the Grand Avenue pedestrian bridge, in a patch of grass between a bicycle/pedestrian trail and the Chippewa River. 

This time, instead of dramatic organ notes, the only music audible was the chorus of nearby crickets. And instead of taking in the sculpture with a large audience, I was accompanied only by my wife, my older daughter and her fiance, and a couple of occasional passersby. 

As during my first encounter with the sculpture, “Baroque” was lit this time too. These days the structure is bathed in a shimmering purple, a contrast to the multi-hued look it wore on the Eaux Claires festival grounds. 

The Phoenix Park Bridge, a distinctive structure, will now look even better at night, thanks to the River Lights project. Workers have installed 196 lights on the bridge, and testing is underway before the bridge is lit during nights. 

The effort, undertaken by the Eau Claire Noon Rotary Club and backed by Downtown Eau Claire, Inc., and UW-Eau Claire, aims to beautify downtown with the effort as well as to attract more tourists. On Wednesday night the bridge’s shifting hues, from gold to green to blue and purple, lent a colorful river view not seen there before.

The two projects don’t provide downtown redevelopment in the traditional sense. They’re not new apartment buildings or stores. But they add a different kind of value that is important in attracting people to the city’s center district.


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