ECHDC should consider art to compliment grain elevator lighting project

Canalside proper isn’t the only area of Buffalo’s waterfront getting dressed up with art. The Connecting Terminal Grain Elevator will be lit up this summer (maybe fall?) as part of Erie Canal Harbor Development Company’s plan to light the grain elevators up and down the Buffalo River.

Exactly when the rest of the elevators will be lit is anyone’s guess, however. After ECHDC approved the original master plan to light the elevators and bridges along the river, it was later announced that only the Connecting Terminal Elevator would be getting the lighting treatment which was disappointing despite the impressive capabilities that the project will have.

While we wait to see if ECHDC will change their course thanks to the Ohio Street streetscape project and increased interest in that corridor, the Connecting Terminal will be lit this year. Original reports pointed to July 4th as the unveiling date but it is expected to be pushed closer to the fall at this point.

It’s about time that the Connecting Terminal Elevator was list. It’s a hulking figure along the waterfront and it needs to be changed from a looming eyesore into something that compliments the surrounding area. One thing I wish was considered was adorning the face of the elevator (on both sides) with a large mural as opposed to simply using the lighting project.

The lighting project will be a terrific installation and I’m certainly looking forward to seeing the execution. But with sunset so late in the day in the summertime and the expected operating hours of the lighting itself being somewhat limited (especially in the summer months), the elevator will still be standing as nothing more than a grey monolith for most of the day.

Why not paint a mural on it that can be enjoyed during the day and at night?

I realize that the lighting project is designed to allow movies and other animations to be displayed on the elevator. If a mural was painted on the side it would limit the capabilities of what is being installed.

Obviously the wintertime will allow for longer exposure for the lighting as the days grow short. But Canalside is best enjoyed in the summer. Why not ensure that the massive eyesore across the river can be enjoyed at all hours, not just a few once the sun goes down?

As someone who is a fan of Buffalo’s grain elevators, I look forward to seeing the execution of this project. I also see the elevators as massive canvases that are asking to be brought to life. If decorated with a mural celebrating Buffalo’s waterfront or the Canal Era, the Connecting Terminal elevator would be a year-round wonder for Canalside visitors to enjoy. Think of all the Instagram, Twitter and Facebook photos that would feature a beautifully painted elevator in the background instead of a grey blob.

A mural wouldn’t negate the lighting project either; it would simply alter the execution.

Movies would be completely ruled out and I’m sure some of the higher level animations would as well. A basic LED lighting set-up similar to the Peace Bridge would certainly do the trick. But even some of the animations used in the original test wouldn’t be ruined by the mural. If anything, they’d compliment it.

Obviously it’s a little too late for this argument to be made as the opening date for the lighting is drawing near. It just strikes me as a missed opportunity for ECHDC and Canalside. There is terrific public art being placed all over the district. Why not capitalize on that and introduce an enormous piece of art for everyone to enjoy?

While I’m excited for the lighting project, I’m disappointed that ECHDC hasn’t considered how the elevator will look during the hours of daylight of Buffalo’s summer. Maybe there’s still time to revisit this project and ensure that the elevator will not only look terrific at night but during the day as well.

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