EDGEBROOK — Work is underway on the second phase of a painted and mosaic mural along the western portion of the path under the Metra tracks at LeHigh, Hiawatha and Kinzua avenues.
Thirty teens supervised by artists from the community and Green Star Movement are working to turn the underpass, which was a crumbling, graffiti-covered disgrace, into a landmark depicting the area's history and lush vegetation.
"We're moving faster this year," said Rick Graham, an Edgebrook resident who helped design the mural. "About half the crew is returning from last year."
Heather Cherone discusses her involvement in community projects a few years back, and how the experience for teens is invaluable:
The mural — known as the Neighborhood Connection Project — along the eastern side of underpass linking Edgebrook, Wildwood and North Edgebrook was completed last summer.
Green Star Movement, a nonprofit organization that has worked with schools and neighborhoods to create public art projects throughout the city, partnered with After School Matters to pay the teens.
Once the mural is complete next summer, it will be the largest public art project on the Far Northwest Side, said Jac Charlier, a member of the Edgebrook Community Association board of directors, who has been coordinating the three-year-long project.
Residents are invited to work on the mural on Saturdays, Charlier said.
Although organizers had hoped the mural would be completed this summer, work will stretch until next summer, when the two ends of the mural, much like the train tracks above it, will be connected, Charlier said.
The 450-foot-long second phase of the mural will cost $70,000 to create, with $41,000 coming from After School Matters, Charlier said. Organizers have been working to raise another $10,000 to complete the work scheduled for this summer, Charlier said.
The first phase of the mural cost $48,000, with $33,000 coming from After School Matters.
The mixed-media mosaic mural, which includes bits of tile and glass as well as sculptures, is designed to transport residents back in time through the area's history.
The portion of the mural that has already been completed depicts the Hiawatha Express train, which once traveled the Metra tracks above the underpass, with the Chicago skyline in the background. The other side of the 118-foot long and 10-foot high mural pays homage to the area's lush vegetation and wildlife.
The second phase of the mural will depict the 1943 opening of the underpass, which allows residents to cross the train tracks and avoid busy Devon Avenue, as well as more of the area's flora and fauna.
The mural will also honor the area's earliest settlers, members of the Potawatomi tribe of Native Americans.