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Mural art in the city’s CTA stations captures culture and history

Daniel Reyes

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Chicago’s CTA stops have navigated toward installing artwork created by artists from around the world. The initiative for these pieces took off less than five years ago. Over 50 stations out of the 145 available to travelers received some type of art from a local artist or an international creator. The art stemmed from Rahm Emanuel’s partnership with CTA in 2011 to create an everlasting impression on those visiting the city, and to promote a friendly environment as well as give insight into the history and characteristics of the communities surrounding the art.

The initiative was brought to the Chicago area by the Arts in Transit Program. The funding comes multiple areas. However, the main contributors tend to be the Federal Transit Administration, the City of Chicago Public Art Program and the Chicago Department of Transportation. The number of pieces were created by CTA’s Adopt-A-Station program as well as local artist contributions and partnerships with local galleries and the Chicago Public Art Group.

For a city known for its key public arts, such as Pablo Picasso’s “Chicago Picasso” or Anish Kapoor’s “Cloud Gate,” Chicago has become a city known for its art offered to be viewed and touched by everyone.

“CTA wants the public to feel at home. When using transportation, the artwork invites people to feel a home feeling,” Brother Mark Elder,  who created the “Big Vinny” mural on the side of McCabe Hall, said.

“I never paid any attention to the artwork whenever I get off at Belmont,” Jorge Merlos, DePaul junior, said. “I usually see the two poles outside with the two faces. But this painting I enjoy looking at. It just brings a childish feel to me. As if it was created by a group of kindergarteners, but the creation is still nice to look at.”
Artist David Lee Csicsko crated the mosaic located at the Belmont train stop.

Artist David Lee Csicsko crated the mosaic located at the Belmont train stop.

“I always see this on my way to the exit,” Keni Jae said. “The placement always catches my attention. I love the lights around it. It just brings the two paintings that they have to life. I wish they would add more on each exist, since this is only in one general area. But I love the bottom one the most because of the Chinese lettering.”

This mural is located off of the 35th/Cermak Red line train stop.

This mural is located off of the 35th/Cermak Red line train stop.

“I think they are quite unique and hold their own value,” Cynthia Rodriguez, a DePaul animation student, said. “Each art mural has its own story of why it was created. It brings color to people’s lives. We look at them and feel different. What I like about these paintings is that they are not the same. They all have history and meaning. I like the different colors that the art uses and how an artist can create such wonderful art.”

Aztec inspired art decorates the 18th street Pink line station.

Aztec inspired art decorates the 18th street Pink line station.

“I’ve never any of these before. The first one is strange to me, but it is clearly well done. I like the colors, but I am confused on what it is supposed to exactly be. It gives me something to ponder on my train ride. It would make me happy to see that in real life and would probably brighten up my time at the CTA station,” Jacob Neville, a secondary education student at DePaul, said.

The Kedzie Pink line stop is a hub of mosaic art.

The Kedzie Pink line stop is a hub of mosaic art.

“My favorite is the one that has the character sitting on top of the tire. I’m wondering what the object behind the man is, what kind of meaning is behind that object behind him, and why the background is separate by the white lines. These pieces are special since they bring creativity and color to a place typically dim and scary in a way. They allow expression of emotions, thoughts, and talent. I like the colors, the complexity in some, and the simplicity in the others. I’m also really intrigued with what the intention or message behind each piece is. Sometimes it’s hard to know what the true message is but I think that’s what makes the pieces more special,” Yazmeen Villanueva said

Green line stop Cermak-McCormick Place has various mural illustrations adorning its station.

Green line stop Cermak-McCormick Place has various mural illustrations adorning its station.

“It made me feel creative,” Melanie Wong said. “I think what caught my eye was the contrasting in the multiple colors. All the infusing of colors makes the surrounding environment uplifting. Although there is no particular picture, the colors are intriguing. It brings out curiosity, and makes me wonder what the colors are attempting to portray.”

Green line stop Cermak-McCormick Place has various mural illustrations adorning its station.

The Southport Brown line stop displays a large painted mural.

The image pays tribute to Chicago Cubs’ player, Ernie Banks. The station is located right next to Chicago’s Wrigley Field, which serves as the home for the Chicago Cubs.

“The first thing I liked about the photos is the style of the art,” Miguel Castellanos, a DePaul finance major, said. “I am not entirely sure, but it has this old school design to it. Also, the players are of color. I found that interesting. Public art seems more meaningful to me especially if it is located on a certain stop. It just shows actual Chicago creativity.”

A painting of Ernie Banks is at the Addison Red line stop.

A painting of Ernie Banks is at the Addison Red line stop.

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Mural art in the city’s CTA stations captures culture and history