Craft & Design Technology
Light-up sidewalk brick



This weekend while walking down Mill Avenue in Tempe, AZ, I saw an interesting sight. The sidewalk is made of bricks, but one of them was glowing. Upon closer inspection, it appeared one brick had been removed and replaced with an acrylic box containing a light source, which was backlighting a drawing on the inside of the transparent acrylic. My curiosity got the better of me, and I pried the top off (which was caulked to the bricks around it) with my multi-tool. What I found was pretty neat: a thick top layer of clear acrylic protecting a vellum drawing, lighted with a single 5mm LED hooked up to a battery pack. The initials “BRT” and the date “10/07” were written on the inside of the box. Having opened the box and accidentally torn the drawing, I felt I should add something to indicate I meant well. I happened to have some LEDs and coincell batteries with me, so I taped up an extra light (the one already in the box was not very bright or diffused), and stuck it inside, then pressed the lid back on as securely as I could. I have no idea who made it, but I have a Flickr set – Link.

40 thoughts on “Light-up sidewalk brick

  1. It’s in there pretty tight; I don’t think it’s going anywhere anytime soon. It’s somewhere on the west side of Mill between second street and Rio Salado.

  2. I know you tried to make it better and all. But am I the only one that thinks it was a dick-headed thing to bust it open in the first place? Somebody made a beautiful thing and you tore it up. Dumb.

  3. Yeah, I’ll admit I didn’t consider retaining its sanctity, but that’s what I like about public-space art like this; anyone can participate. And I still observed the golden rule; it’s in the spirit of the original piece to modify your surroundings. Plus I was just darn curious as to how it worked.

  4. Um…you were curious how it worked…given the fact that you were carrying LEDs and batteries, the thought “LED + battery” didn’t cross your mind?

  5. Well, it could have had a pressure sensor on the adjacent bricks or a light sensor to make it light up only at night or something…

  6. I agree completely and wholeheartedly with rodelu – bad move, bad karma, boooo. Really, you needed to know how it’s possible to have a light inside a plastic box?

    Or maybe you should “participate” “in the spirit of the original piece” by ripping out their circuit and putting in a different one, maybe with red white and blue LEDs that plays the Star Spangled Banner whenever it gets stepped on.

    Better yet, how about a canister of pepper spray that nails the next jackass that pries it open…

  7. ha! listen to all you holier-than-thou faux-connoisseurs of art. this is the nature of street art. i think the original artist was lucky to have someone who was not mean-spirited tear that shit out of the floor. besides, he replaced it! get over yourselves!

  8. Unforgivable. You saw a cool installation and your first reaction was to flip out a knife blade and slash it out of the brick. You damaged it, and then altered it to put it back. The artist had spent time caulking it in to weather seal it and you didn’t even seal it up again after you messed with it.

    You vandalised a piece of art, and no amount of proud “look at me” photographs or LED throwies will make up for that. You wrecked something that someone conceived, executed and took time to create.

    Stay out of the art galleries, eh?

  9. One of my friends makes street art in minneapolis. They are paintings covered with epoxy. He takes them and sticks them to the side of buildings or dumpsters with somekind of contact cement. He fully expects people to pry them off and take them. Actually morning he was walking down a busy street and saw one old rough looking bearded guy slowly working it off and he was thrilled.

    Seems like that is the nature of street art… you have to accept that anything can happen to it. It was righton to add to it.

  10. Oh, lets stop being so silly. The original artist of this piece probably had to pry a brick out of the ground to make the art in the first place. No one posted feeling sorry for the brick worker who put the brick there that was removed. When you deface public property to make art it’s graffiti and when you’re making graffiti, it often gets covered over or destroyed. That’s the nature of public art. I say cheers for indulging your curiosity.

  11. Stay out of the art galleries, eh?

    If you promise to stay in the art galleries and not bother the rest of us any more, then I think we have ourselves a deal!

  12. Nah… I’ve seen this brick and it’s, yeah, right there as part of the path. It was certainly pretty beat up when I saw it, so much so that you could barely tell what it was. I’m sure you only improved it… that’s funny, though.

  13. bekathwia, I’d have done the same thing. Besides, the original work, while a cool concept, was a little lacking in execution… I’d have put a PV cell in there to recharge the thing, and then epoxied the brick in instead of caulk.

    Further, I rather doubt that the City of Tempe gave him/her permission to install the piece. It seems to me that your investigating it had essentially the same ethos as the artist when it was installed. :-)


  14. What mean spirited little people have dropped by. And the poster is a female for those of you who ‘read’ it. So stop calling her – he. Good for you Becky.

  15. You’re fine, your curiosity got the better of you and it’s a little scuffed up. It was an accident, and surely whoever made it has the equipment to make more. If I were you I’d rip up a solar yard light and make a similar one and put it closeby. That’s probably how they made the other one.

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Becky Stern is a Content Creator at Autodesk/Instructables, and part time faculty at New York’s School of Visual Arts Products of Design grad program. Making and sharing are her two biggest passions, and she's created hundreds of free online DIY tutorials and videos, mostly about technology and its intersection with crafts. Find her @bekathwia on YouTube/Twitter/Instagram.

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