Red Bull Illuminates the Stone Arch Bridge

Some call it art, but some just call it disruptive

by Anna Ewart

Red Bull’s Illume photo exhibit is now displayed in Minneapolis on the Stone Arch Bridge, but it is causing both delight and disturbance.

A total of 25 large glass and metal cubes are atop the bridge. The 8-foot cubes have been lit up with photographs from about 9:30 p.m. to midnight since July 10.

The energy drink company’s 10-day exhibit is the result of an international action sports photography contest. It has been to cities across the country , but some people in Minneapolis are unhappy about the exhibit’s location.

Peter Fleck, Web developer for the University’s Masonic Cancer Center, says the cubes disrupt bicycle traffic, and wrote a letter about it to the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board in June , before the exhibit arrived.

“It’s completely bike-unfriendly, at this point,” Fleck said, referring to the bridge.

In the letter, he asserted that the city wouldn’t do the same on a bridge carrying vehicle traffic, and protested corporate advertising on the bridge .

But Shane Stenzel, who handles permits for the park board , said commuters do have other options in the area.

The bridge is still open for bicyclists and pedestrians, but there is a reduced posted speed limit of 5 mph .

Red Bull spokeswoman Jennifer Belongia and Stenzel denied the exhibit is guerilla advertising.

Red Bull paid the Park and Recreation Board $25,000 for a permit to put the exhibit on the bridge, but the company isn’t allowed to give out free samples there.

If he had considered the exhibit guerilla marketing, Stenzel said, he would not have granted the permit.

“I encourage people to go see it for what it is, and it’s an art display,” Stenzel said.

Now that he’s seen the cubes, Fleck said they look interesting but create a dangerous situation by lowering visibility on the bridge.

“You run the risk of getting hit by a bike as you go between these gigantic cubes,” Fleck said.

Unfortunately, that’s already happened.

Eryn Dewey-Carter was working as a stage door attendant at the Guthrie Theater on Monday at about 8 p.m. when a woman came in after getting hit by a bicycle while looking at the exhibit on the Stone Arch Bridge.

She said the woman, who appeared to be a senior citizen, looked shaken up.

Employees gave her ice packs, but the woman chose not to go the hospital or file a police report, Dewey-Carter said.

Although the cubes may bother some people as they walk and bike, there are few concerns that the exhibit itself disturbs the historic nature of the 125-year-old Stone Arch Bridge .

John Crippen, director of the Mill City Museum , said the Stone Arch Bridge is a “landmark” and the only bridge of its kind to cross the Mississippi River.

He said he’s not concerned about the bridge’s character because the exhibit is temporary.

“It’s something that you know is going to go away,” Crippen said.

The exhibit also features a photo taken in Minnesota. Photographer Brian Nevins took a photo of a surfer on Lake Superior.

Nevins, who was in Minneapolis for the opening of Illume, said it helps him and other extreme sports photographers to present their work to those outside the field.

“It’s just a whole new way to communicate and feel good about what we do,” Nevins said.