EDGEBROOK — Work has begun on a mural along the path under the Metra tracks at Lehigh, Hiawatha and Kinzua avenues that will transform what was once an eyesore into a neighborhood gathering place.
Edgebrook resident Kara Johnson, one of the artists who helped design the mural, said she has noticed passersby slowing to admire the work as they walk through the underpass, which connects the Edgebrook, Wildwood and North Edgebrook communities.
"Even neighbors who grew up here and moved away have heard about the project and are coming back to see it with their own eyes," Johnson said.
Work on the mural is being led by Green Star Movement, a nonprofit organization that has worked with schools and neighborhoods to create public art projects throughout the city.
Much of the work on the mural is being done by 30 teens, hired to work on the project by Green Star through After School Matters, an enrichment program founded by former Chicago first lady Maggie Daley in 1991.
"The parents are proud that teens are meeting each other and creating something that they can visit for years to come and feel proud of," Johnson said.
One portion of the mural will depict the 1943 opening of the underpass, which allows residents to cross the train tracks and avoid busy Devon Avenue.
Other portions of the mural will honor the area's earliest settlers, members of the Potawatomi tribe of Native Americans, as well as the area's lush vegetation and fertile land.
The Hiawatha Express train once traveled the tracks above the underpass, and the mural includes a portrait of the train in motion, with the Chicago skyline in the background.
The mural will be completed in three phases. The first phase will cost $55,000 — and all but $9,000 will be paid for by Green Star Movement.
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.