RooseveltSouth Loop

Mixed media art glass at the Garfield El stop. (Photo/Crystal Villegas)

Fast-Paced Art: Creative Works Brighten CTA Stations

By Sheryl Carter, Stephanie Rosado and Crystal Villegas

Posted: Saturday, Dec. 23, 2017

Although convenient, public transportation has been known to leave an impression on the rider with its unique odors and challenge to fit in tight spaces.

To make time pass quicker, it is no coincidence that commuters rely on their phones, earphones or books to enjoy the ride.

But those riders sometimes miss the beauty of art that the Chicago Transit Authority system has to offer. Public art has been emerging to many CTA lines around the city and although each line showcases unique art, the Red Line displays the most art and of diverse background.

Map: Track CTA artwork on this map 

Art has the ability to grab people’s attention even if it is only for a few seconds.

Red Line rider Megan Kerber, who makes a daily commute to DePaul University, mentioned that one of her favorite art pieces is the Hopes and Dreams mural located at the Roosevelt stop.

“This piece of art really stands out in particular to me because it delivers so much more than pretty colors,” she said. “ It’s informative as much as it is artistically attractive especially to students like me.

“[The mural] is a timeline that shows and tells people about different periods in time. Being an archeology major, I find the dinosaur era the most interesting. This is what public art does. It allows each person to identify with it in their own ways.”

This mural at the Roosevelt El stop depicts the Dinosaur Era. (Photo/Stephanie Rosado)

Besides placing art at rail stations to create a unique visual experience for riders, the CTA’s goal is also to promote a friendly, inviting atmosphere in order to contribute to community identity.

According to the Chicago Transit Authority, the art that belongs to Chicago’s transit system growing to its biggest size, with much of the growth coming after 2011, when Rahm Emanuel was elected mayor. There are more than 66 pieces of art on display at more than 50 stations. And some of the art includes mosaics, sculptures and paintings by national and international artists.

The total project budget for art is nearly $621,000, which includes all costs for artist fees, fabrication, installation and other administrative fees. The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) also provides funds for project budgets. All project budgets are solely used for the purposes of art, CTA officials say.

Timelapse video: Check out this Hyperlapse of the mural “Hopes and Dreams.” at the Roosevelt stop

 Emanuel and the CTA have plans to include an additional 10 works of art over the next several years. On the Red Line, the 95th Street Station has plans to include a pair of wall-mounted artworks, fabricated of decommissioned fire hoses designed to flank the pedestrian walkway of the south terminal.

The artwork is inspired by the history of the Civil Rights era and installation is expected by early 2018. The CTA also has plans to install artwork on the Blue Line’s Damen, Westers, Addison, Irving Park, Jefferson Park, and Illinois Medical District stops as well as the Kedzie Green line stop, and the Diversey Brown Line stop.

When the City of Chicago commissions money for artwork, the amount depends on the size of the artwork, complexity and materials used. Some art, such as the installations planned for the Addison and Irving Park Blue Line stops, cost about $100,000, whereas more detailed pieces, such as the art for the 95th Street Station, are upward of $1 million.

The newest artwork piece was installed in October 2017 at the Wilson Station, which serves both Red and Purple Lines. Named “Arpeggio” by world-renowned artist, designer and engineer Cecil Balmond, the sculpture is enhanced by a reflective wall and LED lighting. It uses strong geometric shapes to reflect light and create the feel of continuous movement.

The oldest piece of artwork of the Red Line is at the Addison station. In 1998, the painting “Cubs Legends” was commissioned by the Adopt-A-Station program and was painted by artist Steve Musgrave.

The Fullerton Red Line station features several art pieces, such as Hayes Healy Gymnasium, known for its limestone panels that showcase athleticism, “Doors Open Everywhere at Fullerto,” a mosaic abstract landscape just above the entrance stairs and Landslide a three-dimensional drawing.

360 view: Check out this photo bubble of 79th Station artwork “South Side Weave.”

Bedia Zear, a CTA booth operator on duty at the station,said riders appreciate the pieces.

“I think the art is nice.” she said. “As long as we can keep it clean I think it’s nice to look at. Lots of people come from out of state and they like to take pictures standing in front of the art.”

When asked if she would be on board for the city to expand the art to more stations, she said no.

“I believe that art is better exposed to the public at high traffic or major stations like Fullerton or Wilson.” she said.

Commuters say they enjoy having something to look forward to while they are traveling. Art is what gives them something colorful to explore, they say.

“The pieces I have encountered in the Red Line are what give me something to anticipate when I’m going down the escalators, because even if they are the same pieces of art, I see them differently each day,” CTA rider Marquise Davion said. “I think it’s important that these pieces of art are being updated regularly.”

Davion works with several after-school activities while also working as a video producer.

“I know that programs like After School Matters send their students to create pieces of art.” he said. “The more students become involved, the more diversity we are encouraging in public art.

“Chicago needs more of it being spread out."

Read more: Public art in Chicago

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