August 23, 2004

Mural is First of Nine Art Pieces Slated for Installation Along Cermak (Douglas) Branch

Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) customers who take the Cermak (Douglas) Branch of the Blue Line will soon be treated to nine new pieces of public art, thanks to a partnership between the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs? Public Art Program and the CTA.

CTA recently installed the first piece, a ceramic mural by local artist Ivan Watkins, at the Kostner station. It is one of nine new art pieces CTA will unveil by the end of the year at the eight newly renovated stations along the Cermak (Douglas) Branch of the Blue Line.

"This partnership between CTA and the City of Chicago's Public Art Program has helped the CTA connect to the community through art," said Chicago Transit Board Chairman Carole Brown. "The commitment of all parties involved will result in new art at seven other stations along the Cermak branch of the Blue Line by the time we celebrate the completion of the overall rehabilitation project early next year."

"The artwork will certainly enhance travel on the CTA for our customers," stated CTA President Frank Kruesi. "Not only do the pieces add to the overall appearance of the stations by promoting a friendly, inviting atmosphere, they also capture the pulse and vibrant culture found in communities along the Cermak (Douglas) branch of the Blue Line."

Watkins' mural, "Birth of Heroes: The Wall of Harmony," depicts images of the surrounding Lawndale neighborhood and historical African-American leaders and inventors. The 9' x 6' piece was digitally reproduced onto a section of ceramic tile located on an outside wall near the Kostner stationhouse entrance. A key identifying all of the individuals in the mural is also located at the station.

Watkins, who has more than a decade of experience producing public works of art throughout the Chicago area, United States and abroad, referred to this project as "an opportunity to combine my research skills and interest in history and social change with my fine art and mural expertise."

The piece at Kostner was inspired by the Mandala concept, which is essentially a circle that represents the universe and has been used for thousands of years as means of promoting inner peace, and Universal understanding in the viewer.

The Public Art Program, as an integral part of this project, established an advisory panel consisting of city, CTA, art and community representatives who served as advisors over the past year to select the appropriate artwork for each station.

The CTA allocated $1 million in its construction budget for the $483 million Cermak (Douglas) Rehabilitation project for artwork to be incorporated into the stationhouses along the branch. Of the $1 million, $800,000 was allocated for art procurement and installation, and up to $200,000 was earmarked for administrative expenses by the city's Public Art Program.

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