Most Chicagoans have a love-hate relationship with the "L." While I appreciate the value of the ride and the historical dignity of an elevated system, the station experience feels dreary, greasy and grimy...but not all of the time. Since 1997 the CTA's Adopt-A-Station
initiative has been helping us love the L station a little bit more. This program invites businesses, communities and schools to "adopt" stations in their neighborhoods, and the fruit of the partnership tends to be public art. Here are beautified L stops worth getting off at:
Make way for Mexican Muralists at 18th Street (Blue/Pink Line)
No other Chicago neighborhood is as committed to public artwork as Pilsen, where murals decorate buildings. Fittingly, no other CTA train station tops the artistry of Pilsen's 18th Street Station. Electric blues, vibrant oranges, yellows and reds explode in a series of images that relate to Mexican-American heritage: farmers harvesting crops, ancient Aztec symbols, pictures of Mexico and Catholic iconography. Unlike other stations, no inch of surface is spared decoration. Each stairstep and panel of wall from the lobby to the end of the platform is adorned. Even if you live no where near Pilsen, it's worth the ride (and do take a walk around the neighborhood): That's a lot of art for $1.75.
Bring on the many faces of Lakeview at Belmont (Red/Brown Line)
Everyone has a favorite image of Chicago, and mine (barring that of the city skyline at night...everyone's true favorite, right?), is the Belmont train platform at dusk from Clark Street. Seeing the silhouettes of waiting passengers positioned above the goofy portraits in the "Belmont 2000" murals makes for a happy respite from the city's chaos. Adopted by Swedish restaurant Ann Sather in 1999, the Belmont stop murals are an indelible part of the Lakeview neighborhood. A total of 15 panels were designed David Lee Csicsko, a Chicago children's book illustrator, with six panels set up on each side of the Belmont stop platform and two by the station entrance. Bearing Csicsko's cartoon-inspired portraits of brown, pink and yellow people, they evoke thoughts of youth culture, aliens, punk and light-heartedness.
The city of Big Shoulders shines at Sheridan (Red Line)
Sure, the true station for those crazy Cubs fans is Addison, but the more inventive art stop for baseball lovers fans sits one stop north. Visible from the non-paying area of the station are two large-scale paintings that show the glory of Wrigley Field. Over the summer of 2005, student-artists from Gallery 37 collaborated on these pieces, which read as detailed "Where's Waldo" collages. Leading to the stairs of the station is a separate public artwork sponsored by Live Bait Theater, which includes quotes fromo Chicago-based poets that were inspired by riding the train. From literature to sports, the Sheridan stop has it all.
Walk into your "Hopes and Dreams" at Roosevelt (Red Line)
Even the busiest commuter slows down his hustle and pauses to stare at the visual arts that saturate the Roosevelt transfer tunnel. The mosaic installation "Hopes and Dreams," made by Juan Angel Chavez and Corrine Peterson of the Chicago Public Art Group, will make you freeze in your tracks. The duo was commissioned to make the work using 4,000 clay tiles created by visitors to the Museum Campus (Field Museum of Natural History, Shedd Aquarium and Adler Planetarium) between 1999 and 2002. The surrealistic installation has no beginning and end, but flows as a pastiche of clouds, water, plant life, tree roots and faceless people, made of the abstract shapes and ideas that make up our own hopes and dreams. Let's hope that the Blue Line transfer tunnel at Lake Street is the next to be beautified...that trek could use some beautiful distractions.