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'Little School Under the L' Celebrated In DePaul Murals

By Ted Cox | July 31, 2017 2:04pm
 The Rev. Francis Xavier McCabe, DePaul's second president, and Sister Mary Teresita Frawley, one of the first women to graduate from the university, are among those celebrated on the murals.
The Rev. Francis Xavier McCabe, DePaul's second president, and Sister Mary Teresita Frawley, one of the first women to graduate from the university, are among those celebrated on the murals.
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DePaul University/Russell Dorn

DEPAUL — DePaul University celebrates itself as "The Little School Under the 'L'" with a little-known series of murals painted on pillars beneath the CTA's Fullerton Avenue station.

After "The Story of the Little School Under the 'L'" project launched last year with four murals of figures from DePaul's past, Brother Mark Elder added four new murals last weekend.

"It's essentially a collection for us of who historically represented over the years the essential values of what the university is about," Elder said Friday during a break while doing prep work on the murals.

Last year's original four pillars were "no-brainers," Elder said: longtime basketball coach Ray Meyer, civil-rights activist and 1948 Law School graduate Benjamin Hooks, 1952 U.S. Olympian Mabel "Dolly" Landry Staton and finally Minnie Daly and Sisters Mary Teresita Frawley and Mary Clemenza Leahy, the first women to gradate from DePaul, in 1912.

 Brother Mark Elder does preparation work on the new murals last Friday.
Brother Mark Elder does preparation work on the new murals last Friday.
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DNAinfo/Ted Cox

Ray Meyer, Mabel "Dolly" Landry Staton and Benjamin Hooks were among the first DePaul figures immortalized on pillar murals under the CTA Fullerton platform. {DNAinfo/Ted Cox)

For those not in the know, Elder pointed out that Staton ran track in Helsinki in 1952, when DePaul didn't even have a track team.

"This year we had a longer discussion about the whole of the collection," Elder added, with the decision made to basically follow chronological order as they paint sets of four pillars a year moving north toward the actual CTA station.

The newly painted murals feature:

• DePaul's relationship with the Sheffield Neighborhood Association.

• The original athletes known as the "D-Men," from which the nickname "Blue Demons" emerged.

• Rev. Francis Xavier McCabe, DePaul's second president, who kept the university open during World War I.

• Rose Vaughn and Marion Amoureux, the university's first African-American women to graduate.

The new emphasis on chronological order delayed murals planned last year on basketball great George Mikan and the 1968 student demonstrations at DePaul.

While now the nation's largest Catholic university, DePaul prides itself on how it was once known locally as "the little school under the 'L.'"

The murals, too, are something the university can take pride in, but something thus far it's pretty much kept to itself. The pillars aren't technically in the CTA station, but behind it on the ground level in a parking lot student athletes walk through to get to Cacciatore Stadium. Otherwise, to find them you have to search them out.

The Virginia-born Elder hold a masters in fine arts degree and sees his work as part of his ministry. One of his best-known efforts is a 68-foot mural of St. Vincent DePaul titled “We Are DePaul2″ that is seen daily by thousands of commuters riding the "L."

That piece (below) was created using thousands of small rubber stamp-made portraits of faculty, students and staff members in 2001.

A 2014 DePaulia profile of Elder noted how he "can be seen around DePaul’s campus and beyond in standard cowboy regalia — cowboy hat, suede fringed coat, neckerchief and a silver chain adorned with turquoise and a silver buffalo attached."

In his latest effort, Elder paints the murals in a distinctive style that lends itself to the rounded pillars. He called the works "an extension of my mural class" illustrating "what public art should be doing for people," and he uses students to help on the work.

Plans are for the project to continue moving forward toward the present, four a year, as they paint pillars approaching the CTA station, with Elder adding, "I'll be here doing this the next five years."