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Art Tue Oct 01 2013

Creativity in Transit: Public Art on the CTA

This summer, the CTA requested proposals for art projects that it intends to display at newly-renovated Red Line stations on its southern Dan Ryan Branch. Ever since then, I've been taking a closer look at the art in and around the trains.

Like many commuters, I've caught sight of a mosaic or two on my way up the escalators or pushing through the turnstiles. But this fall, I want to be more purposeful in my hunt. The CTA's website provides a helpful booklet [PDF] locating and describing each piece of public art. Some of them I've leaned up against or walked on without noticing. Others, like the fuschia and red aluminum waves of Krivanek and Breaux's "Reflections Expressions Transformations" at the Chicago Brown Line station, evoke the same emotions every time I see them. Many of them decorate parts of the city I don't often get a chance to visit.

cta mural - photo by senor codo
Photo by SeƱor Codo

CTA art is art in flux; usually, people will only see it for a few moments. As they move to and from the trains and stations, they may not even register that what they're looking at is intentional. Having the names and locations of each installation in the back of my mind has encouraged me to look up -- or down -- as I travel and appreciate fellow Chicagoans who at one point passed through a station and thought of it not only as a destination or transfer point but as a venue, gallery or stage for their creativity.

Interestingly, the Brown Line dominates the list; 18 of its 28 stations feature public works of art. The Red Line follows with 12, but considering that it's the longest train route in the city and moves the highest volume of people on any given weekday, the number seems paltry. And the Blue Line, which during its run from O'Hare gives many people their first taste of Chicago, cowers at the bottom of the list with merely two installations. Still, I look for and consider its other smallish attempts, like the artfully spaced letter tiles at Division, Chicago and Grand that spell out the names of the streets or the curved light poles at California and Damen, as a few seconds of beauty silencing the noise of the elevated and subway platforms.

While I wait for the CTA to unveil its renewed stations on the Dan Ryan Branch to see what art (or lack thereof) they'll feature, I amuse myself by admiring the commuters. I've come to consider them as slow-moving sculptures on the platform. On this strange runway, figures in mixed fashions all adopt the same stance as their commute comes into focus down the tracks: hands thrown up to their foreheads to shield against the sunrise, coats and hair blowing attractively back from their faces, bags held tightly to their sides, leaning forward yet minding the gap.

 
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Architecture Tue Nov 03 2015

Paul Goldberger Describes the "Pragmatism and Poetry" of Frank Gehry's Architecture in His New Book

By Nancy Bishop

Architecture critic Paul Goldberger talks about Frank Gehry's life and work in a new book.
Read this feature »

Steve at the Movies Fri Jan 01 2016

Best Feature Films & Documentaries of 2015

By Steve Prokopy

Read this column »

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A/C is the arts and culture section of Gapers Block, covering the many forms of expression on display in Chicago. More...
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