EDGEBROOK — Once a crumbling, graffiti-covered disgrace, the path under the Metra tracks at LeHigh, Hiawatha and Kinzua avenues is set to be revamped into a time capsule designed to transport residents back in time through the area's history.
Work is set to start this summer on the bricolage mural at an intersection that links the communities of North Edgebrook, Edgebrook and Wildwood.
"The community is turning a neglected eyesore into a beautiful landmark," Ald. Mary O'Connor (41st).
The mural will feature not only painted images but also mosaic, sculpture and photographs using a French art technique known as bricolage to craft a three-dimensional covering that stretches 450 feet along the underpass walls, which vary in height from 3 feet to 14 feet.
The mural will be done in three phases, taking advantage of the three entry points into the underpass. The first phase, set to be completed this summer, will craft a 118-foot long and 10-foot high mural along the tunnel part of the underpass as well as the east walls that end at a small park.
Jac Charlier, a member of the Edgebrook Community Association board of directors, who has been coordinating the two-year-long project, said the design would also pay tribute to the area's lush vegetation. The theme was selected by a year-long vote of residents.
The first phase of the mural will cost $55,000 to create — and all but $9,000 will be paid for by Green Star Movement, a nonprofit organization that has worked with schools and neighborhoods to create public art projects throughout the city, through its partnership with After School Matters, an enrichment program founded by former Chicago first lady Maggie Daley in 1991.
"Cost-wise, we can't beat this," Charlier said.
Thirty teens age 14 to 17 from Edgebrook, Wildwood and North Edgebrook will be hired over the summer to work on the mural.
"We really want everyone to be involved, especially the youth," Charlier said, adding that the entire community will be invited to work on the mural on special days.
It is not often that teens from the 41st Ward get the opportunity to work as apprentice artists and get paid for it, O'Connor said, adding that she had already contributed $3,000 toward the cost of the first phase.
In addition to graffitti on the underpass walls, the concrete walls were crumbling and a sewer seemed to be sinking into the ground. Earlier this year, O'Connor's office spent $30,000 to ensure its structural integrity of the underpass and to replace the sewer, which often flooded. It also got a thorough pressure cleaning and a whitewash.
"We hope young people will take pride and ownership of the mural," and the grafitti will not reoccur, O'Connor said.
Green Star artists expect to finalize the mural's design, based on the concept created by community artists, by the end of March, said Executive Director Kamelia Hristeva.
"It will be like walking back in time," Hristeva said. "People will be able to learn about their community and how it got to be the way it is."
The underpass links the three communities, and gives pedestrians and bikers a safe way to cross the train tracks without using Devon Avenue.
For more information, call Charlier at 773-266-1420 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.