The new mural under the 47th Street Metra pass is finished, and was dedicated this past Saturday, Sept. 19. If you haven't glanced at it from your car, or walked past it on your way to the lake yet, it's worth a look.
It's in a style called "bricolage" mosaic, using broken tile, mirrored tile, colored grout, and tiles with photo transfers. The lead designers were Carolyn Elaine (a Bronzeville resident) and John Pitman Weber. The themes were chosen at community meetings, and photographs were donated by community members. The photos pay tribute to both better-known and unknown 47th Street inhabitants (and esteemed guests, in the case of Ella Fitzgerald) and they are, hands down, my favorite part of the mural.
Alderman Preckwinkle provided menu money to support it. The cost was $86,000, including wall prep and the youth team that worked on it over the summer.
Jon Pounds, Executive Director of the Chicago Public Art Group (CPAG), told me that the challenge was to create something sweeping and almost cinematic as you drive by, but more intimate and thoughtful if you're walking.
The symbols that each take up about 1/5 of the mural are (from west to east):
1) the Adinkra (West African) symbol for "know your heritage," called the Sankofa bird, holding the egg of the future in its beak
2) a hand with a spiral in the palm, the Native American sign of human presence
3) a woman's face, reading ("know, learn, read")
4) the Adinkra symbol for "adaptability," called the Denkyem, a crocodile-turtle that lives in water, breathes air, and lays eggs on land
5) Another hand, the Mudra, for tranquility and balance.
My biggest worry about murals, and public art in general, is the question of maintenance and removal. In the process of funding this mural, no money was set aside for future maintenance. When it deteriorates -- as it inevitably will (for instance, how color-fast are the photo transfers, when exposed to the elements? Will tiles pop off with seeping, freezing water? The grout in my shower needed work after 10 years!) -- a group like CPAG will have to scramble to find public and private funds for restoration. And years from now, the community that lives with it will likely have little say in whether it's historic enough to be restored, or dated enough to be retired.