DOWNTOWN — The Wabash Arts Corridor, marked by big murals painted on brick lofts and parking garages, now has night lights.
"Descending Into Heaven," a 56-foot-long photograph, was installed Monday on the side of a vintage building at 710 S. Wabash Ave. Designed by West Loop-based artist Darryll Schiff, the new piece riffs on a former Art Institute exhibit to show that whatever heaven people may believe in, it can't be reached on Earth.
"I'm not trying to be a pessimist, I'm a realist," Schiff said.
Schiff took photographs of visitors to "Public Notice 3," a 2011 installation at the Art Institute using lit-up words from a speech delivered during the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago. The speech, delivered by monk Swami Vivekananda, urged religious tolerance across the world.
"He talked about how we can accomplish peace and abolish tyranny in the world and things to that effect. The way I interpreted the speech he was almost promising heaven here on Earth," Schiff said. "My picture, it’s all the bright lights I take to be the words from the speech, and they get brighter and brighter as you keep reaching for that pie in the sky."
But in the photo, Schiff's subjects never reach that point.
"To a certain degree, [the picture says] don’t be lured in by all these words and promises," he said.
Schiff raised more than $20,000 through Kickstarter for the piece, making it the first crowdfunded artwork along the Wabash Arts Corridor. It will also be strung with LED lights, making it the first piece to be illuminated at night.
Launched in 2014, the corridor is an effort by Columbia College Chicago and other neighbors to liven up a stretch of South Wabash Avenue that's better known for being under L tracks. The pieces range from a moose blowing bubble gum to a statement against street harassment of women.
And now it has Schiff's photograph.
"I’m a big believer of public art," he said. "I do have some pieces in museums and a lot of private collections, but the thought of being able to do something, have it out in Chicago, my hometown, and something this big is quite exciting."
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