Art for the underpass
Prairie District group eyes mural underneath train tracks at 16th and Indiana
05/02/2012 10:00 PM
One corner of the South Loop could be getting redecorated soon, if a plan from one community group takes off.
The Prairie District Neighborhood Alliance is leading the charge to create a mural underneath the railroad overpass at Indiana Avenue and 16th Street, adding color to the dingy walls.
The mural would be made using a technique called bricolage, where pieces of broken tile, ceramic and mirror, found objects and clay sculptures are attached to the brick wall and then finished off with a layer of cement and grout.
The end result would be a shimmering, vibrant new cover for the wall, one that lasts much longer than a painted mural. The project would be executed by the Chicago Public Art Group, an organization that’s designed and helped execute bricolage murals all across the city, including prominent ones at underpasses beneath Lake Shore Drive at Bryn Mawr and Foster avenues.
Sheli Hadari, who’s heading up the project for the PDNA along with her friend Elizabeth Karnezis, said the idea came to her because she was walking underneath the viaduct almost every day with her 2-year-old daughter.
With Karnezis and her daughter, also 2, they’d walk from their homes in the 1800 block of South Prairie Avenue to Mark Twain Park at 15th Place at Indiana. But each time, they’d walk past the blank wall.
“It was shabby. Everything around it is very new, and it just looks very out of place,” Hadari said. “I used to drive by the murals on Foster and they’re really stunning, and I said, ‘Why can’t we bring something like that to our neighborhood?’”
So she recruited Karnezis and they went to the Chicago Public Art Group.
Jon Pounds, the group’s executive director, said planning for their projects is a community effort that involves the neighborhood from the ground up. No one person dictates the execution of the process. Instead, it’s a collaborative effort driven by focus groups and meetings where folks can have their say about what they want their community’s mural to look like.
“A good process is not simply just an artist working alone,” he said. “The most interesting part of the conversation is the conversation about what is really engaging to put on that wall.”
At this point, though, the PDNA doesn’t have any funding for the project. Chicago Public Art Group does pay its artists and employees, and the total cost of the project is somewhere around $64,000, Karnezis said. They can begin planning with about $6,000 though, she said.
Where that money would come from, they’re not sure. They’ve been told they won’t get the cash from the city at this point, so they’re turning to fundraising. They’re trying to raise the first round of cash soon so they can develop that plan to show off.
“In some instances, it helps to have a design to help start the project,” Karnezis said the Public Art Group told them. “That way, you have a plan for them to buy into.”
At that point, they hope they can get the rest of the money to finish the project from donors.
If process goes well, they’re hoping to take on the other railroad viaducts along 16th Street.
It’s a great neighborhood project, Hadari said, because almost anyone can take part in its execution.
“You don’t need and technical skills to participate, anyone can come and be a part of it,” she said. “It can be making tiles, or being part of the installation — it’s a very democratic process.”
“Once everything falls into place,” she said, “we’re looking forward to watching the community come together here to participate and watch it go up.”