The Atlantic City public art projects being built on vacant sites alongside the Boardwalk survived Hurricane Sandy’s 85-mph wind gusts just as well as the iconic walkway did.
The storm stopped work on the installations for a week, but did not delay the unveiling this week, Atlantic City Alliance President Liza Cartmell said.
Sandy also drew global attention to Atlantic City because forecasters said that was where the storm would make landfall. The center of the storm actually hit Longport, five miles south.
“We were in this situation where Atlantic City was going to be ground zero … until the last possible moment, and (national) media outlets planned accordingly,” Cartmell said. “The reality is that the reports were overblown.”
Funded by local casinos, the ACA has five years and $150 million to boost tourism in Atlantic City. The nonprofit was suggested by changes in state law made in February 2011. Those changes also gave the New Jersey Casino Reinvestment Development Authority planning and development authority in the city’s main commercial zones, including areas surrounding the casinos. The goal is to improve tourism.
Besides the beach, the Boardwalk is the part of the city that the ACA has been stressing most in its campaign to spread the word that there are things to do in the resort besides gamble.
So the ACA - along with casino hotels such as Tropicana Hotel and Casino and Revel - worked hard after the storm to try to counter misleading national media reports that said Sandy obliterated the Boardwalk. A run-down section of the Boardwalk along the Absecon Inlet at the northeast tip of the island is now gone, but most of it was inaccessible and all of it was slated for demolition. The storm actually saved the local government some money.
Protected by dunes and beaches buttressed against erosion by recent replenishment projects, the Boardwalk along the ocean made it through Sandy largely unscathed. Cartmell said the ACA will keep trying to get that word out.
As part of its mission, the alliance also is trying to change perceptions that the resort is run-down and unsafe.
Public art contributes to that by changing vacant lots, which can be a negative experience for visitors, into a positive one.
The installations are slated for three empty lots adjacent to the Boardwalk: the Pinnacle lot between Indiana Avenue and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, the former Playboy site between Florida and Bellevue avenues and a site between Belmont and California avenues.
Other areas could be included in the future, but the early emphasis on the Boardwalk also reflects the intention to make the promenade much more lively and interactive.
To that end, the alliance debuted on July 4 a $3 million light show - and its soundtrack - on the side of Boardwalk Hall facing Kennedy Plaza. Anyone who comes to Kennedy Plaza 15 minutes before the top of each hour after dark can check out the spectacle for free.
The Atlantic City Tourism District Master Plan also calls for wind sculptures, kiosks for international retailers such as Apple and Nike and elevated viewing platforms. Some of those could be incorporated into public art installations.
The public art installations are being directed by curator Lance Fung of New York-based Fung Collaboratives.
Fung put Oakland, Calif., artist John Roloff in charge of the California Avenue site. Work started there over the summer. A black-and-white spiral painting that creates an illusion of three dimensions now stretches across the site’s 217-foot Boardwalk frontage.
Three artists share the Pinnacle site, their work set in elaborate earthwork mounds.
The alliance has stressed that the displays are designed to be temporary and can easily be dismantled to allow development in the future.
That could happen soon for the Pinnacle site, empty since the Sands Casino was imploded in 2007. Company representatives recently said they expect to finalize sale of the property before the end of this year.