CHICAGO (CBS) — New pieces of artwork have been installed to grace two Chicago Transit Authority L stops.
The CTA announced the new installations on Monday at the Montrose Blue Line stop along the Kennedy Expressway in the Mayfair neighborhood, and at the Diversey Brown Line stop at the cusp of Lakeview and Lincoln Park.
“These new installations add to the vibrancy and intrigue of CTA’s distinguished and growing public art program,” CTA President Dorval R. Carter, Jr. said in a news release. “Not only do these two pieces add beauty to their respective stations and the communities they serve, they also highlight both historic moments and elements of our local culture that would otherwise be forgotten or remain unknown.”
At the Montrose Blue Line stop, “Windy City Odyssey” by Chicago artist Chris Cosnowski has been unveiled at the north end of the stationhouse. It features a series of art glass panels depicting toys and trophies representing Chicago history and culture.
• A bodybuilder trophy, celebrating Chicago as “The city of Big Shoulders;”
• A tyrannosaurus Rex skull representing the Field Museum of Natural History;
• Three Little Pigs, representing the old Chicago Stockyards and the idea of building a strong home.
• A blue knight chess piece for the Chess Records logo. Chess was the famous Chicago blues label that released the great works of blues legends such as Muddy Waters, Little Walter, Howlin’ Wolf, and Willie Dixon, and early rock legends including Bo Diddley and Chuck Berry.
• Bozo the Clown, honoring the longest-running Bozo Show in Chicago. Bozo was depicted by Bob Bell from 1960 to 1984 and by Joey D’Auria from 1984 to 2001 on WGN-TV.
• A tugboat, for Chicago as a hard-working city on Lake Michigan and the Chicago River.
• A cow, representing Mrs. O’Leary’s cow that legend blame for The Great Chicago Fire;
• Running trophies, for the Chicago Marathon and the energy of the busy city;
• A penny, honoring President Abraham Lincoln as Illinois’ greatest political figure.
• A ballet dancer – for the Joffrey Ballet.
• A fish for the Shedd Aquarium.
• A plastic blue letter M for the Montrose Blue Line station.
• An astronaut figure honoring the Museum of Science and Industry, where an the Apollo 8 Command Module and space suit are on display.
• A purple lion for the Art Institute of Chicago.
• Airplanes for O’Hare International Airport.
• Red lips for the three iconic neon signs advertising the Magikist rug cleaning company. Signs were mounted on the Eisenhower, Dan Ryan, and Kennedy expressways; the last sign, which towered 80 feet above the Kennedy near the Montrose station, came down in late 2003.
At the Diversey Brown Line station, you’ll find “Ordinary Relic,” a conceptual art instillation that is featured throughout the facility.
The installation was created by Chicago artist Mathew Wilson, and uses the primary colors of yellow and blue to draw attention to its elements, so as to “engage a dialogue between the past and present, challenging the viewer to consider or reconsider public art, monuments, and cultural preservation.”
For the artwork, the existing elevated structure over Diversey Parkway was repainted bright yellow. Meanwhile, along the station platforms are six message panels reading “MEMORY” and “HISTORY” leading toward the exit on the north side of Diversey Parkway.
Outside that exit is a bright yellow and blue replica of an old-time ticket agent’s booth – with 10 years of historical significance for the greater Lincoln Park area embossed in the pedestal:
1824: The U.S. Army built a small post near what became Clybourn Avenue and the former Center Street (now Armitage Avenue, which dead-ends before reaching Clybourn). Native American settlements existed along the Green Bay Trail on what is now Clark Street, and at the present-day junction of Lincoln and Fullerton avenues and Halsted Street.
1850: Frances Xavier Cabrini MSC, known as Mother Cabrini, was born. She became the first naturalized citizen of the U.S. to be canonized by the Roman Catholic Church on July 7, 1946. Just south of the Lincoln Park neighborhood, the Cabrini-Green public housing development – which has now been largely demolished – was named for Mother Cabrini in honor of her work with Italian immigrants in the area.
1852: The German community was well-established to start work on St. Michael’s Roman Catholic Church in Old Town. It was named for the patron saint of local brewer and landowner Michael Diversey – who is also, of course, the man for whom Diversey Avenue and Parkway are named.
1863: Cyrus McCormick sponsored the opening of the Presbyterian Theological Seminary of the Northwest in Lincoln Park. It later became the McCormick Theological Seminary, and remained in Lincoln Park until the 1970s, when it moved to Hyde Park near the University of Chicago campus.
1865: The park of Lincoln Park – adjacent to the namesake neighborhood but ultimately extending far to the north of it – was renamed for assassinated President Abraham Lincoln immediately after his death. The land had begun as a public cemetery in which victims of cholera and smallpox and Confederate prisoners from Camp Douglas were buried. But the cemetery so close to the lake became a public health hazard, and a protest effort led by Dr. John Rauch came to ensure the land would be available for public use. There is still one above-ground reminder of Lincoln Park’s history as a cemetery — the mausoleum built for 19th century Chicago inkeeper Ira Couch near the Chicago History Museum.
1868: The Lincoln Park Zoo opened with a gift of two pairs of swans from Central Park in New York. The zoo is one of the oldest in North America, and one of very few zoos in the U.S. to offer free admission.
1898: St. Vincent’s College, which became DePaul University in 1907, opened near the McCormick Theological Seminary. The intellectual nerve center in Lincoln Park attracted other institutions to the area such as the Chicago Historical Society – now known as the Chicago History Museum; and the Chicago Academy of Sciences – since supplanted by the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, but housed for many years before that in the Matthew Laflin Memorial Building at 2001 N. Clark St. that now serves as the Lincoln Park Zoo Headquarters.
1905: A time when Lincoln Park was a working-class neighborhood with a large German population. Lincoln Avenue was once a trail called Little Fort Road that led to the settlement of Little Fort in what is now Waukegan. As the artwork description on the CTA’s website noted, the German population in the area called the street Kaiser-Wilhelm-Straβe.
1954: The Lincoln Park Conservation Association was organized to serve the area. It pursued neighborhood renewal by encouraging private property rehabs and the use of urban renewal funds and housing code enforcement. As the description on the CTA website put it, “This might be considered the beginning of gentrification.”
Among the association’s plans that were executed was the closure and removal of Ogden Avenue — which once ran through Old Town and Lincoln Park all the way to Clark Street and Armitage Avenue, but was cut back to North Avenue and Larrabee Street in 1967. The Ogden Avenue viaduct over Goose Island was also later demolished, eliminating all of Ogden Avenue east of the Chicago River’s North Branch except for one disjointed piece near Clybourn Avenue.
1969: Members of the Puerto Rican Young Lords and other residents and activists protested against the displacement of Puerto Ricans and low-income populations from Lincoln Park – including the demolition of buildings at Halsted Street and Armitage Avenue. They occupied the space and some administration buildings at the McCormick Theological Seminary.
The Rev. Bruce Johnson was the pastor of the Armitage Avenue United Methodist Church – also known as the People’s Church – and hosted the Young Lords and their community programs in the late 1960s. Johnson and his wife, Eugenia Ransier Johnson, were found murdered in their Lincoln Park home on Sept. 30, 1969, and the case remains unsolved more than half a century later. The description on the CTA website called them martyrs.