Joe Cox’s Color Wall Needs Its Switch Turned On



You know, it isn’t often when you see something that is a “shame.”  You know, like “aww, man – it’s a shame that 21 million people have no health coverage,” or “aww, man – they tore down that stem cell research drive through clinic and put up a Taco Shack, that’s a shame.”  You know, one of those really sorrowful that actually makes you think about the future.

This isn’t quite that bad, but it sucks in its own right.  On a comparative scale, this obviously doesn’t compete with health insurance and our disregard for stem cell research.  However, it is a shame that money and art seem to live so closely together, which is why this story is a shame.

In Raleigh, NC there is a light art installation that was born in 1972 called The Color Wall – the product of an artist named Joe Cox at North Carolina State University.  It’s a 12 foot by 36 foot panel that has colored light shining on it, changing by means of a mechanical system that the artist designed himself, all mechanical.  The Color Wall’s system changed the lights about 32 times every 2 minutes.  It’s been called the most significant work of public art in Raleigh.

Unfortunately, the system that Cox had designed has died a few times over the last few years, and finally took the final bow sometime in 2007 after two decades of mediocre if not failing operation.  There is a proposal into the school to change its control system to something more modern (ETC’s Smart Switch Relay) and, well, functioning, so that the Color Wall can keep inspiring the public and, well, actually lighting up and functioning like the artist initially designed.  What sucks about that is the system is about $6200 bucks (as of the last quote), and they are halfway there.

Feeling generous?  You can certainly donate to the cause of keeping this long-lived piece of light art alive.  Some Raleigh bloggers have also started a site all about the wall, and tracking the progress of restoration.  It’s not stem cell research or health coverage, but it is enrichment, which is also important.


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  1. Jim,
    Thanks so much for writing about this important Art project in Raleigh, NC. I’ve met the gentlemen working to restore this effort and they are truly committed to bringing it back to life. I know they appreciate the donations.

  2. yes, thanks Jim, for picking up the Color Wall story– we appreciate the press! And thank YOU Ginny for ‘spreading the love.’

    This is an intriguing site, btw– all about all things light! Very cool!

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