Atlantic City ballet perform during first of two ACA ceremonies dedicating public art installations and thanking first responders at Boardwalk between California and Belmont Friday, Nov 9, 2012.

Edward Lea

The first public art installation in a five-year, citywide ARTLANTIC: wonder project aiming to “reimagine” Atlantic City was formally introduced Friday afternoon.

The $3 million, two-exhibit installation unveiled Friday overlooks the resort’s Boardwalk from long-vacant properties that sit about a mile apart.

“I walk the Boardwalk from time to time, and I (can’t) help but stand here with a sense of pride,” Mayor Lorenzo Langford said.

Langford said he’s watched as the 8,500-square-foot space between California and Belmont avenues has been transformed from vacant lot into a public art project that’s nearly complete.

A black, grey and white zebralike pattern spirals from a 10-foot high wall and concrete floor to converge on what will be a stainless steel cistern at the floor’s center. With water cascading over it and generating mist, the focus of Etude Atlantis, as the exhibit is called, will be meant to suggest a portal to the Indian Ocean on the opposite side of the globe, project director Layman Lee said.

San Francisco-based artist John Roloff intends to create a reciprocal piece in Australia, according to the Atlantic City Alliance.

Undulating grass hills frame two sculptures — a plywood pirate ship and a bronze self-portrait of artist Kiki Smith — at the other, seven-acre property between Indiana Avenue and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, which had been vacant since Pinnacle Entertainment demolished the Sands Casino in 2007.

Bright, illuminable letters spell out “intimate,” “continue” and other words on the grass. Curator Lance Fung said the greenery is meant for picnicking, reading, sunbathing and other public uses during daylight hours. Benches will be added by spring, when both sites will be finished, he said.

Fung, who curated the public sculpture garden at the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy, was hired by the Alliance to oversee the initiative. The Alliance is a casino-funded nonprofit created to rebrand the resort and functions as the marketing arm of the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority.

A total of five empty lots will be transformed by 2016.

“At some point in the future, I’d like to think we’ll have big, multiuse buildings here,” CRDA Executive Director John Palmieri said as he stood before the ship sculpture at the center of the Pinnacle site. “But in the meantime, this is how (it) should be used.”

The idea is to improve the appearance of vacant lots until then, thereby improving the environment on and near the Boardwalk.

Until recently, the dilapidated California Motel overlooked the other vacant lot being transformed into the Etude Atlantic public art installation, Langford said.

The city demolished the motel last summer as part of a city-CRDA plan to remove blight in the city and tear down neglected eyesore buildings.

The unveiling of Etude Atlantis doubled as a thank-you ceremony for first responders one week after Gov. Chris Christie lifted evacuation orders put in place during Hurricane Sandy.

The five-day closing was the longest in history for the resort. It also delayed work on the temporary installations, but they are still on schedule to be finished by spring.

“We’re really designing (this) to engage the public while also providing a respite to the public, especially in these difficult times,” Alliance President Liza Cartmell said. “We want to make sure that a sense of community is what this is all about. And in fact, the first responders are the ones who protect the community and its citizens.”

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