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Lake Park Ave. and Metra viaducts streetscape plan, and the Hyde Park Murals; mosaic proposal 57th/Drive home

This page brought to you by Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference and HPKCC's website, www.hydepark.org. Join the Conference!

August 19, 2015, Wednesday, 4:30 pm. Dedication was held of "Under City Stone" community project restoration with original artist Caryl Lasko. Metra viaduct north side of 55th St. RSVP to nlevando@uchicago.edu. SPECTACULARLY RESTORED!
The mural under the viaduct at 55th Street and Lake Park Avenue in Hyde Park was originally painted in 1972 by Caryl Yasko, one of the first female muralists in the country. This summer, Ms. Yasko has been working with her assistants, local students, and community members to restore her art. The other partners in the project are Chicago Public Art Group, Fifth Ward Alderman Leslie Hairston, and the University of Chicago. The Office of Civic Engagement is funding the restoration project.

Discussion of differences between graffiti and street art, tagging and gang marking was continued in the July 18 Herald by an article that went into both Ald. Zalewski's undiffentiating proposed increase in fines and youth and programs and murals provided inter alia by Little Black Pearl. Jay Mulberry and Lavi Raven have offered to convene focus groups to look more closely.

March 2014- the "Permission Wall" (near 53rd and Kenwood) and its temporasry murals by local youth and better known artists, at the former Mobil Station was torn down for the new Vue53 development.

William Walker passed away at 85 cSeptember 11 2011. His works were not only Hyde Park by around the city and included the "Wall of Respect."
Article: http://www.suntimes.com/news/metro/7626217-418/artist-william-walker-who-helped-paint-wall-of-respect-and-other-murals-dies.html.
And here is link to Mary Simich's Tribune tribute and photo gallery. http://chicagotribune.com/murals

New murals went in in fall 2012 in th north side of the 51st viaduct. Called "Survivors Spirit", the panels are quite diverse.

Donations needed for school children and artist to complete production and installation of mosaic section in the underpass under LSD north of Museum of Science and Industry. This set stresses scientific and industrial achievemtns. Send chek to Chicago Publci Art Grou, 600 W. Cermak Ste 3b, 60616 memoing 57th St. or call 312 427-2724.

May 16 2012, A lovely dedication/rededication ceremony was held under the 57th St. viaduct. Honored were original muralist Astrid Fuller and three restorers/reinterpreters- Bernard Williams (Spirit of Hyde Park) and Mssrs. Reed and Sansung (Pioneer Social Work). A graduate student with the School of the Art Institute read from comments of passers by, gathered as part of her thesis on these murals then and now. Jay Mulberry was MC, Roger Huff organizer. Sponsoring or present were University of Chicago Civic Engagement, Chicago Public Art Group, CDOT, Metra, Ald. Hairston, and reps of several organizatons and officeholders. Refreshements from Cafe 57 were paid for by U of C.

Two murals damaged over the years by water and graffiti were restored and will be honored- they were originally by Astrid Fuller in the mid 1970sand recently altered and restored by Bernard Williams. They are "Pioneer Social Work" on the north wall and "Spirit of Hyde Park on the south." Part of the deterioration was because the painting when done used oils, found later to allow too much moisture passage (later murals and the restoratiion/reinterpretation here were in accrylic) and because of the major leakage of the underpass walls. Parts that stayed dry remained in pretty good shape except where heavily graffitied and/or "fixed"with rollered white paint. The University and Chicago Public Art Group secured funding to restore and or reinterpret these murals and the same or replace murals in several other underpasses in Hyde Park (some had other funding.) Permission had to be obtained from Metra, Canadian National, and the city (CDOT). Hired muralist Bernard Williams did consult Astrid Fuller, but communication and understanding may have been incomplete, and pictures of destroyed sections were missing or incomplete. So Williams attempted to interpret the intent, or interpolate abstractions. The murals remain what some call and called leftist and whole-South Side experience stories and some say not Hyde Park, whether 60 years ago or today. Depictions of acts of violence were particularly criticized in the originals. A new panel was made available on the far west of the north side by movement of the Metra ticket station and an additional panel of Pioneer Social Work was added using one of Fuller's designs, in Fuller's style by artists Damon Reed and Max Sansing.

Spirit of Hyde Park Mural painting project on 57th- and proved controversial. But community groups, stakeholders, and the artists Astrid Fuller and Bernard Williams have worked together to complete the project. Now the celebration- see above.

The Spirit of Hyde Park mural at 57th and Lake Park Metra viaduct, by Astrid Fuller (and Mr. William Walker- there is a list of original and current sponsors and painters at the west end), was an early and complex historical and social interaction mural in Hyde Park. Due to damage over the long term by vandals, quick-fix graffiti "busters", peeling, and water/weather damage, it was "restored/reinterpreted" in 2010-11. It was alleged that the original could not be restored or recreated in its entirety although photos were available from the artist.

Much of the new painting was at the least non-contextual, consisting of geometric and abstract forms and some figurative work in a different style, very little related to the story of urban renewal and social-economic-racial conflicts in Hyde Park. Artist Bernard Williams explained to a group of us that the images/geometrical forms especially toward the west end were meant to speak to connections--often broken or non-communicating connections among groups sharing Hyde Park. The geometric sections, especially the polka dots and especially at the east edge beyond the overhead tracks, were intended to be playful, seen from afar and to draw people in to engage in the dialogue on the mural. There were breakdowns in communication so that original artist Fuller was not, it was acknowledged, adequately consulted and involved in the project.

Jay Mulberry of Hyde Park Village Google Groups and others have called for a public accounting (there was not public input) and true restoration. Part of the viaduct is public right of way the walls belonging to or leased to Metra, and part Canadian National Railway. Other people like it and or say it forces viewers to engage in a dialogue on the community and change over 60 years. According to Mulberry, two web sites with pictures and and commentary can be consulted:
The first is about the original mural:
The second tells something about the thoughts that went into the construction of the "restored" mural.

Those who sponsored or made the changes include artist Bernard Williams, the Chicago Public Art Group (which has a contract for the viaducts in Hyde Park and Kenwood), the Office of Civic Engagement at the University of Chicago (which funded and hired the project).
An ad posted in early October 2010 said, "[Artist] Bernard Williams welcomes volunteer youth and adults to help restore and renew the Spirit of Hyde Park mural at 57th and Lake Park. He needs volunteers beginning October 14, 2010 between the hours of 10 AM and 3PM, Tuesdays through Saturdays. The paint is non-toxic, but will not wash out of clothes. Individuals aged 13 and above can volunteer without parental supervision. No reservations required, just show up!

Note that Astrid Fuller will be involved in an as is (bit in acrylic) restoration of her mural on Social Work on the north side of the street. A section on that side that has no mural will be done. These have been postponed due to the viaduct work in progress. CPAG also has a contract for more work on 56th, 55th, and 51st. The latter will be art panels like on 55th south side. 55th is in negotiation with the artist, who would prefer a conservation like restoration in oil.
Mr. Pounds and Mr. Williams graciously met with about 12 members of the community including from HPKCC, at which much of the above was discussed. There are some who want the changed parts taken out and the original reproduced, but the strongest request was a public input process for this and all the as yet undone mural surfaces. CPAG will consult on such a process with Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference. It is uncertain, however, how the University will react regarding the walls for which it has contracted and funded and the position of aldermen. (47th did a have a public input porcess at request ofd the funders, including Ald. Preckwinkle.)

Here is the website of the Chicago Public Arts Group: http://www.cpag.net/home/restoration.html. jonpounds@cpag.net. 1259 S. Wabash, 60605.

Here is what Astrid Fuller wrote in an article in the July 21, 2004 Hyde Park Herald about some of the 57th underpass murals:

In 1973, I put up "The Spirit of Hyde Park" on the approximately 2,100-square-foot south wall of the 57th Street-IC underpass. The design had previously been approved by nearby businesses and residents. I had the good fortune of having Bill Walker, seminal leader of the mural movement that swept across the nation, as my mentor. Also, 15 neighborhood children volunteered to help....

Under my direction, they did the entire next phase of putting in al the flat colors and working on the source of light. Public response to the mural was astonishing. A few people blasted it in the local newspaper as violent. Out of this came an outpouring of support from many quarters, including the media, tourists and Chicagoans. Len O'Connor, of Channel 7, described it as a "wall of hope that has tried to record the heartbeat of mankind in community."

In 1976, I was measuring the 59th st. Underpass for a mural about Pioneer Social Work. What I did not know was that a few years before, Bill Walker had considered a mural there which was to feature portraits of University of Chicago Nobel Prize winners or international scholars. He was stopped by a nearby co-op resident, and I was, too. I agreed to meet with all the residents to hear their wishes.

The co-op member, in the meantime, called all the various Hyde Park organizations to get their help. Political and community leaders were supportive of me, and a larger meeting was arranged in the Unitarian Church, sponsored by the Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference. A straw poll was taken with 43-21 in favor of the mural going up. However, I was interested in obtaining an uncontested site, and painted it on the northeast wall of the 57th Street underpass, completing it in 1977. There was citywide positive interest in the mural, stimulated by media coverage.

Bill Walker painted "Justice Speaks: Delbert Tibbs/New Trial or Freedom" (1976) on the northwest side of the same underpass. This was in regard to a perceived injustice to a Chicagoan convicted of murder in Florida [ not the lynching of Chicago youth Dilbert Tibbs in another southern state in the 1950s]. Because of railroad station renovation, it no longer exists.



Metra removed embankment limestone walls south of 47th, starts landscaping; Planning continues on Lake Park Corridor, Metra viaducts and embankments. See the embankment walls that Metra and the city removed in 2004 from 47th to 50th in David Schalliol's www.metroblossom.com/historical. To Lake Park Plan graphics (3 parts). To Kenwood-40th Embankment. Appeal for a whereabouts; contact for Jon Pounds of Chg Pub Arts Gp. Some contacts, literature. --Chicago Public Art Group sites including muralart.org and http://highergliffs.com.

A new mosaic by Montgomery Place residents under artist Mirtes Zwyerzynski and derived from displays at the Museum of Science and Industry is being readied for the underpass of 57th Drive. Thanks to Chicago Public Art Group and Harper Court Arts Council. This will go with the spectacular murals by school children under the Lake Shore Drive overpass.

To graphics and details of the Lake Park-Viaducts planning documents, series.

One of the murals (part) on south wall of 56th St. viaduct, "Childhood is Without Prejudice, "restored in 2009 by Bill Walker and Nicholas Kashian. Marc Monaghan for Chicago Public Library Special Collections. Hyde Park Herald.

Marc Monaghan picture of 56th  viaduct mural for Herald adn Chicago Public Library Spec. Collections. Bil Walker an Nicholas Kashian.

Note that there are several murals in Hyde Park not related to the Metra viaducts. Some are at the underpasses of Lake Shore Drive at 57th. More are at and in schools-- Bret Harte, Canter, Kenwood, Ray, Reavis, to name a few.

Others are outside, such as the one on the alley at Kinkos in the 1300 block of 57th St. The latter was originally done by artist, muralist, writer and rapper (Jam Crew and 3 albums with Stony Island) Wyatt "Attica" Mitchell. He attended Ray and Kenwood and worked at the Medici then moved to New York and Atlanta, and was shot visiting Chicago in 2004. In 2009 the mural underwent its 2nd renovation under graffiti artist Sam "Desi W.O.M.E." Mulberry. (Pieces by both were among those in the 47th viaduct whitewashed in 2006.)

Jon Pounds, Chicago Public Arts Group, can be reached at 312 427-2724 or jonpounds@cpag.net.

John Pounds of the Chicago Public Arts Group issued this appeal in December, 2004.

Does anyone know the whereabouts of Albert Zeno!!!!
If anyone knows the whereabouts of Albert Zeno, painter of the mural on the south side of 55th street, please contact me.


Jon Pounds - [info@cpag.net, 312 427-2724 x24]
Chicago Public Art Group

In late 2007, they were still looking for him, to coordinate restoration of the mural on south wall of 55th Street (Alewives and Mercury Fish) that is to be restored.

Meetings- watch for one in late July 2011.

From the January 2008 TIFormation

World Class Art to Adorn Local Viaduct Walls

(pics: Aspiration by John Himmelfarb and On the Beach by Margaret Burroughs.)

(quote: "The selections showcase t he diversity of the talented artists living on Chicago's South Side." Jon Pounds, Executive Director, Chicago Public Art Group)

Renovation of the 53rd and 55th St. viaducts is scheduled to resume this spring and be finished this summer.

The remaining work consists of the installation of the steel frame 'bent' system, new lighting and at panels or mural restoration. These final elements will have a dramatic impact on the viaducts and the pedestrian experience.

A curatorial team from the Chicago Public Art Group, Hyde Park Art Center, and the South Side Community Art Center selected the work of four South Side - and international renowned artists- to adorn the walls of the viaducts. Art by Terry Evans, John Himmelfarb, Calvin Jones and Margaret Taylor-Burroughs will be reproduced digitally and printed in color onto 8 ft. by 12 foot panels on the 53rd and 55th St. viaducts. The TIF Council enthusiastically endorsed the selections of art work, which the University of Chicago is funding.

The City of Chicago and Metra- through the support of Aldermen Toni Preckwinkle and Leslie Hairston , committed $3.8 million to support the renovation of the 53d and 55gh St. viaducts and the landscaping of the connecting embankment along Lake Park.

Rep. Barbara Currie (D-25th) obtained an additional $2.5 million to support the renovation of t he 53rd and 55th St. viaducts from the state of Illinois to fund subsequent phases. Design is currently underway for the next set of viaducts; 51st and 57th Street. The City of Chicago estimates that the entire multi-phase project will cost over $20 million.

Latest. (To announcement of summer 2008 projects)

Ald. Hairston announced in July 2010 that funding has been received to complete the rehabilitation of the 56th viaduct and to restore the "Spirit of Hyde Park" mural on the south side of the 57th St. viaduct.

The 51st St. north side will have panels like 55th, funded under Lake Park enhancement (Fed. stimulus and other units match). Watch for as meeting on it late July 2011. 55th north side is under discussion.

What's underway: Cleaning at various existing murals.
Ms. Yasko is repainting a section of the Under City Lights mural on the north side of 55th, near east. This is the only panel being done as deep autumn approaches and will be in oil (end sections will be in acrylic). This section is still getting water from poor re-sealing of joins at the top of the concrete walls. There is a sign-up sheet for donations of time, publicity or materials near where she is working. The new lighting has certainly brightened up existing murals. Damon Lamar Reed has been doing work on the mural on the south side of 55th

57th Lake Shore Drive getting funding.

North face of the 47th St. viaducts. The groups that won the 4th Ward competition completed their mosaics/bricolage and paintings. In addition, murals are starting to go in at the 57th Lake Shore Drive underpasses under a project that includes schools. Olivia Gude is restoring her mural "Where We Come From, Where We are Going" and the "Childhood Is Without Prejudice was done and visited by original painter and founder of Chicago muralist William Walker on the 56th Metra south wall. Column restoration is underaway there also. And Blackstone Library has restored its historic Oliver Dennett Grover murals- the restorer will give a talk on it August 31, 7 pm at the library.

September 19, 2009, the art and historical mural on the north side of 47th was dedicated by artists, donors, community members and Ald. Toni Preckwinkle (4th), who donated most of the funds ($85,000)"Reaching Back, Moving Forwrd, Lest We Forget the Song of 47th Street" is the name and theme of the project that celebrates mostly North Kenwood and Bronzeville with embedded photos, poetic phrases, symbols of West Afrtican and Natie American symbols, and a dazzling mosaic of bricolage. Many of the photos were donated by residents. many community volunteers including Kenwood Academy students worked on preparation and installation, which at first looked very daunting to them.


47th mural finalists selected, show to North Kenwood Oakland Conservation Community Council March 6 2008. (Workday on the north murals August 1 2009, 10-4)

The finalists are: Rahmann Barnes and a team of Nina Smoot-Cain, Carolyn Elaine and Sonata Kazimieraiteiene. They showed their concepts, the first a mosaic with mirrored tile, the other a painted collage reflecting history of Hyde Park and Kenwood. 28 individuals or teams competed. (Sam Mulberry and others whose murals were whitewashed in 2005 say they were never dealt with seriously. They declined to apply or compete in the RFP.) The Smoot-Cain team has done other murals in the area and one is a 4th generation resident. Their mosaic at five pints along the walls would evoke community virtues and values and include clay tile reliefs made by residents. The Barnes Tea proposes a mural called "Instinctive Movements," which in acrylic and spray would cover the whole wall with color, maps, prominent Chicagoans, the seasons, and symbols. Barnes grew up in the area and teaches at Little Black Pearl Art and Design Center and After School Matters, which have been putting up art along highways etc. The winning team will be selected soon and work start in the summer.

Under way is mural replacement under the 47th Metra viaduct. After city crews whitewashed the progressive murals done by teams including Higher Gliffs, and Metra cancelled the contracts and Higher Gliffs could not or chose not to compete in a competition under North Kenwood-Oakland Conservation Community Council, Chicago Public Works Group, and Ald. Preckwinkle's office, the judged competition chose two teams. Work began in June 2008 on the south face, called "Instinctive Movements." In July 2009 installation of mosaic began on the north wall under lead artist Carolyn Elaine and John Berger of Chicago Public Art Group, Lisa White and others from Alternates, Inc, and Kenwood High. (Commissioned by the 4th Ward).

Chicago Public Art group aids, adds to local murals. Herald, July 29, 2009. By Kate Hawley

Olivia Gude perched at the edge of a tower of scaffolding, leaning toward the overpass of teh 57th Street Metra viaduct. With a paintbrush, she dabbed carefully a the words "Where are you coming from" -- which she said didn't end up quite right the first time she painted them in 1992. She's now in the process of restoring the entire mural she created that year, called "Where We Come From, Where We Are Going." The Chicago Public Art Group, or CPAG, a nonprofit behind a range of murals and other public art art projects across the city, secured the funding for the restoration through a preservation grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.

CPAG is also behind a brand new mural in the works on the border of Hyde Park and [North] Kenwood, on the north side of teh 47th Street Metra underpass. Five students from Kenwood Academy High School are working with professional artists Carolyn Elaine and John Pittman Weber, who founded CPAG (then called the Chicago Mural Group) with artist William Walker in 1970.

Their mural mixes painting and bricolage, the application of tile onto the wall's surface. In recent weeks, ribbons of mirrored tile have appeared in looping, spiraling patterns across the wall, toward a design that will ultimately represent Hyde Park families and historical figures, according to Maria Gray, CPAG development director.

Community members who want to pitch in can show up for a volunteer workday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Aug. 1. Ald. Toni Preckwinkle (4th) who funded the project, wil make an appearance, Gray said.

Gude's project calls for a different kind of community participation. Its subject is commuters, who she interviewed as they stepped out of the Metra station. She captured a diverse cross-section of the local population, from a woman who compared Hyde Park to a "jail cell" to a neighborhood man who described himself as "happy, you know. I really don't have any problems in the world." He has come back in recent weeks to see the restoration underway, Gude said. Others, too, have stopped by to share their memories of the mural and the people it depicts. "It's been really fun to hear all these stories," she said.

[Caption: Volunteer Teresa Vega de Galan takes a break from sorting tiles to watch her son, Gerardo Galan, and his niece, Cynthia Gonzalez, install a mosaic. The 4th Ward commissioned the work for the north wall of the 47th Street [once] Illinois Central viaduct.]

"Under City Stone" 55th muralist eyes restoration. Herald, August 6 2008, by Kate Hawley

As art conservators picked gently at her weathered mural "Under City Stone" under the 55th Street viaduct last Friday, Carl Ask pulled a yellowed scrap of paper from a folder. "You have to see this!" she said. "This was drawn in 1972!" The tiny pencil sketch was her original concept for the mural, which has covered the north wall of the viaduct for 36 years. During that time, the image of commuters streaming away from a train station has become stained, chipped and worn away in places, prompting a restoration effort by the Chicago Public Art group, or CPAG.

The organization, which is behind five public art projects underway in Hyde Park this summer, has secured funding from the South East Chicago Commission to restore a section of Yasko's mural, according to Executive Director Jon Pounds.

As a part of that effort, experts from Chicago-based Parma Conservation were at work last friday assessing the mural's condition. Rescue Public Murals, an agency of the Washington, D.C., nonprofit Heritage Preservation, funded their work, according to Pounds's. He's hoping that the revived section of "Under City Stone" will inspire donations that will allow Yasko to complete the restoration, he said.

Though he was hesitant to put a price tag on the job, he said it would likely be in the range of $35,000. "For relatively modest money, we can get 20 years of beautiful mural," he said. Though much of the image remains, water damage has taken a toll (wiping out, among other things, Yasko's self-portrait with her young daughter on her back). And though the mural has been largely unblemished by graffiti, a local resident painted over the few tags that have appeared in recent years with squares of white paint, Pounds said.

It's current condition prompted a blogger using the name Elizabeth Fama to remark in a September post on the site Hyde Park Progress, "I think this puppy should go to mural heaven." Pounds said the image is well worth restoring because it's beautifully rendered and also steeped in neighborhood history. Yasko, a former Hyde Park resident who now lives in Whitewater, Wis., recalled that during the summer of 1972, when she created the mural, so many locals leapt in to offer advice and lend a hand in the painting that she had to limit the number of painters.

It was her first mural in a long career that has led to commissions in Chicago and throughout the Midwest. Over the years, she said she's heard from several people who lived near "Under City Stone" or were depicted in it, who remember it as a part of their childhoods.

She said she chose the poem "Rapid Transit"by James Agee, which runs through the mural, to reflect not only its location near railroad tracks but also the creativity of childhood. The poem might be read as a critique of mass transit: it begins "Squealing under city stone/The millions on millions run/ Every one a life alone/ Every on a soul undone."

But Yasko saw another message. James agee's poem actually is about children," she said. "When we're younger have wild ideas, crazy ideas. When we get older, we become tamer. It addresses that transition in life."


56th murals update August 2009

"Childhood Is Without Prejudice" done,"Where We Come From.." underway

Herald August 19 2009. by Kate Hawley

Sightings of the artist William Walker have been few and far between in recent years. Now 82, he is "very private," according to Jon Pounds, executive director of the Chicago Public Art Group or CPAG. But during the 1960s and /70s and into the '80s, Walker was a very public figure in Chicago's art scene. He spearheaded "The Wall of Respect," the first in a wave of socially conscious murals that spread across the country, and in 1970 he co-founded the Chicago Mural Group, which eventually became CPAG.

With grants from the South East Chicago Commission and the National Endowment for the Arts, the organization has just completed a restoration of his 1977 mural "Childhood [I]s Without Prejudice," just east of the 56th Street Metra viaduct. Walker agreed to a rare public outing on Monday, Aug. 3 to examine the finished product.

A small group of painters writers and other devotees of public art hovered around him, snapping his picture and recording is words. Wearing pressed olive chinos, a beret and a leather fanny pack, he seemed anything but reclusive, laughing and telling stories about everything from his former television appearances to an argument he once had with a police officer about a mural he was creating at a public school. He also told the story behind "Childhood Is Without Prejudice." Its interlocking images of children from many races are a tribute to Bret Harte Elementary School, across the street at 1556 E. 56th St., he said. He was pleased with the racially progressive policies at the school when his daughter and son were students there.

Nicholas Kashian, the artist who restored the mural for CPAG, strolled past in paint-spattered clothes, and Walker shook his hand. "Are you satisfied with the restoration?" asked Olivia Gude, an artist who is reworking her 1992 mural "Where We Come From... Where We Are Going," on the other side of the viaduct. "Oh, definitely," Walker said, smiling and running his hand over the surface of teh wall.

Gude's mural is made up of portraits of commuters and their answers to the questions "Where are you coming from?" and "Where are you going?" She posed the same questions to Walker, saying she plans to expand her project to include him. Without hesitation, he said, "I'm corning rom the dearest person of my heart, my grandmother." a tear traced a wavering path down his face. "When I was 2 years of age I was abandoned by my mother. Never did see my father. That little old lady raised me ... she was everything to me. "You must understand her circumstances in the community," he continued. "By her being a mulatto woman, she was a minority." Later he added, "She understood the cruelties of both sides."

When Gude asked him where he is going, he said, "Well, like everybody who has walked this Earth, I'm going no further than anyone else. And by that I mean I've got to be aware of whatever I can learn and try to be as knowledgeable as I can." That's an idea Walker seems to have taken to heart, even though he says a tremor in the hands has left him unable to pint since 1988. Four years later, in 1992, Gude was working late in the night on her "Where We Come From" mural. She recalled feeling unnerved that a figure was hovering in the shadows, but after a few minutes she discovered it was Walker. He had come to see what she was working on and offer encouragement. "He was like a guardian angel or something," she said.



Update on murals form the September 10 2007 TIF meeting: artists selected for 53rd, 55th

53rd and 55th Street Mural Project Update: John Pounds, Director of the Chicago Public Art Group, Chuck Thurow, Hyde Park Arts Center, and Faheem Majeed, South Side Community Art Center are "curators" for the panels and murals at these sites. Four artists have been selected--Calvin Jones, Margaret Burroughs, John Himmelfarb, and Terry Evans--whose works lend themselves to art panels for the site. Lighting and a protective coating are also part of the project. In addition, part of the mural on the south side of 55th - Alewives and Victory Fish- will be preserved.


Work started the week of March 5 2007 on the signal lights at Lake Park and 53rd, start of a major project. The scope of the project was presented at the May 14 TIF Advisory Council meeting. The viaduct niche panels where murals are not to be preserved will have blow ups of artist works (funded by U of C in this phase of the project), juried by Hyde park Art Center, Chicago public Arts Group, and South Side Community Art Center. No pieces will be deemed permanent or owned. Highlights in this phase include the walks, rails, walls, lighting etc. of the 53rd and 55th viaducts, disabilities-friendly signals at 53rd and 55th, and embankment protection and landscaping. (The remnant of dolostone wall south of 55th will be kept.) Note that there are several things that the project cannot address, partly due to shortness of time, that some projects trigger a lengthy review, and unwillingness by Metra to have some activities in progress, especially since some could interfere with moving passengers. May 15 work started on one side each of the 53rd and 55th viaducts. Work is suspended for winter 2008 with pavement and basic painting, signals lights in-including audible enunciators at 55th (but not yet countdown). IN spring the new artworks will be in; planning under a state grant by Re. Currie is underway for the next phases.

New Art will brighten Lake Park Viaducts- selection made, works in progress

InsideOut Fall 2007 (University of Chicago)

By Spring 2008, thousands of resident, automobile passengers, CTA riders, and Metra commuters will experience a more attractive and pedestrian-friendly experience at the 53rd and 55th Street viaducts on Lake Park Avenue. The city is currently renovating these viaducts and will landscape the railroad embankment between them.

The City of Chicago and Metra--through the support of Aldermen Toni Preckwinkle (4th Ward) and Leslie Hairston (5th Ward)--have committed $3.8 million to support this first phase of work. Rep. Barbara Flynn Currie (D-25th) obtained an additional $2.5 million from the State of Illinois to fund subsequent phases. Design is currently underway for the next set of viaducts at 51st and 57th Streets. The Chicago Department of transportation estimates that he entire multiphase project will cost over $20 million.

With $100,000 in support from the University of Chicago, a curatorial team from the Chicago Public Art Group, the Hyde Park Art Center, and the South Side Community Art Center selected the work of four South Side--and internationally renowned--artists to adorn the walls of the viaducts. The work of Terry Evans, John Himmelfarb, Calvin Jones, and Margaret Taylor-Burroughs will be reproduced digitally and printed onto eight-by-twelve-foot panels lining the pedestrian walkways in the viaducts at 53rd and 55th Streets. The selections "showcase the diversity of the extraordinarily talented artists living on the South Side," says John Pounds, executive director of the Chicago Public Art Group.

In addition, the Chicago Public Art Group will restore the mural on the north side of the 55th Street viaduct. The murals on both sides of the 57th Street viaduct will be restored in conjunction with the future renovation of these viaducts.

These major infrastructure improvements combined with the colorful art panels and restored murals underscore the presence of the vital art community on the South Side," says Irene Sherr, a principal with Community Counsel, an urban planning firm involved with the project. Top


Report 1: Herald May 23 2007 report- and pre-urban renewal relic found. By Nikeya woods and Yvette Presberry (abbreviated)

Construction began last week to improve the viaducts at 53rd and 55th street and Lake Park Avenue as lane closures caused minor traffic jams. The Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) is spending $3.8 million to reconstruct the drab and leaking viaducts.

"We all know the structures are all leaking and there's a lot of water that sits there, and there's only so much we can do about that," said Janet Attarian, project director for CDOT. Attarian made a presentation at the May 14 53rd Street Tax Increment Financing Meeting and said that the pedestrians and drivers should expect to encounter reduced sidewalk space and single lanes under the viaducts.

The improvements will take place in four phases, with the first phase occurring at the north side of 53rd Street and the south side of 55th Street. Later in the summer, as decorative concrete railings are hoisted into place, 53rd and 55th streets will be temporarily closed and traffic will be rerouted.

Attarian said that when the first phase is completed by the end of summer, CDOT will begin work on the flip side of 53rd and 55th Streets. Future work includes improvement to the viaducts at 7th, 51st, 57th and 60th streets.

Chicago Transit Authority bus stops will be moved across the street. Metra stations and businesses like Istria Cafe on 57th Street will remain during construction.

residents and commuters were excited about the improvements. " If it's advantageous for people who have disabilities and it's more accessible for ladies in the evening and well lit, then I'm all for it," said Hyde Parker John Volpi. ..Jeremy Inbinet said, "Right now when you walk down here it seems dark, And you think, 'Should I cross the street here or should I keep walking."

The agency will install new lighting, a decorative arch walkway, ADA compliant sidewalks, a guardrail and a new ceiling and new gutters. A system to collect rain water from leaking down the walls will be installed to help restore murals and new artwork.

Meetings about the improvements will be held every Thursday at 1:30 pm at [Bank Financial Lake Park/55th]. Top

The Herald also reported that a relic of Murray's cigarette and wine store in the vicinity of the viaduct was found during work on 53rd viaduct- buried in a wall. (The section was left for later so decisions can be made.) Such businesses were controversial in the era leading up to urban renewal clearance.

Aldermanic report in July 25 2007 Herald. By Toni Preckwinkle (4th), Leslie Hairston (5th).

The Lake Park Avenue streetscape project is will under way. The first phase entails improving the public way beneath the viaducts that run [perpendicular] to Lake Park Avenue at 53rd Street and 55th Street. Crews are currently working on the north side of both viaducts.

This segment of construction has the greatest impact on traffic as left turns are prohibited from both westbound 53rd and 5th streets to southbound Lake Park Avenue. Left turns will be allowed once work is completed on the viaducts.

Crews will then switch over and begin work on the south side. This should take place in approximately four to six weeks. The Chicago Department of Transportation has installed message boards to remind motorists of the no left turns and to keep Hyde Park residents informed of any traffic changes.

While the CTA bus routes will remain unaffected during construction, the northbound bus stop, located on the east side of Lake Park Avenue at 53rd street, has been temporarily moved a few feet to just north of 53rd Street.

Over the next few weeks, sidewalk reconstruction, ADA access ramps and curb and gutter work will be completed as crews begin work on the retaining walls. Later this summer, column improvements, archway and lighting work will get under way.

Project improvements include installation of a new decorative arch walkway with art panels provided by the University of Chicago, new lighting, new sidewalks, new guard rails, column and skylight improvements, wall repairs and embankment landscaping.

The $3.8 million project, partially funded by Metra, is the first of five planned for the area between 47th and 60th streets. Thank you for your patience. We continue to work with the Chicago Department of Transportation to keep residents informed and to minimize your inconvenience. We welcome your suggestions and input. Please call us with any questions you might have as work continues...for further information and updates, please go to: cityofchicago.org/Transportation.


April 9 Herald carried update on summer 2008 projects

Chicago Public Art Group, in collaboration with University of Chicago, Hyde Park Art Center, and South Side Community Art Center. Participating schools include (through funding) Hyde Park High School, Kenwood Academy High School, Shoesmith Elementary, Canter Middle, and Bret Harte Elementary. Work starts in May. Projects include:

Some residents continue to call for new studies to assess structural integrity of columns, viaducts

Leonardo and Caroline Herzenberg to Hyde Park Herald, August 8, 2007: Hyde Park also in need of updated infrastructure

The tragedy of the recent collapses of a large bridge in Minneapolis, Minn., reminded all of us of the dangers of inadequately maintained, overly stressed infrastructure. In Hyde Park, almost all of us are familiar with the sadly neglected underpasses beneath the train tracks adjacent to Lake Park Avenue. The current work on the sidewalks and retaining wall is nice, but the fresh white paint on the columns actually covers up the problems.

These underpasses exhibit cracked walls with water leakage and weight-bearing columns that are not only spalled, but the reinforcing rings around the columns (under the spall) are completely eroded, providing no reinforcement.

Residents of Hyde Park deserve a qualified technical assessment of the structural integrity of the columns supporting the tracks. Collapse of the columns under the load of freight trains could result in derailment, with possible spills of hazardous substances.

[Ed. The project says Metra has assessed the columns and says they are sound, but.... Likewise with the spalling ceilings.]


Report 2. Groups seek to preserve public art [mixing new art and existing 70s murals], but serious dispute has arisen over future of 47th whited out mural space. Were the latter walls "taken" like going into a museum and walking out with a canvas?

July 11 2007 Herald report- Residents want muralists to brighten area [47th viaduct] with paintings.

Jon Pounds of Chicago Public Art Group recently solicited suggestions from residents for the upcoming mural project for the 47th Street viaduct. Nearly one year after the existing mural was unexpectedly white washed by the city, plans are being made to create another public mural.

At the July 5th North Kenwood Oakland Conservation Community Council meeting, Pounds summed up what residents had been telling him about the viaduct. It had been described as dark, gloomy and uninviting. Pounds encouraged the attendees to describe how they wanted to feel when they were at the viaduct. The words included historic, proud, safe, inspired, and community. Some residents went into detail on what they would like to see depicted on the mural such as jazz and blues greats, community heroes and a timeline of neighborhood history from the 1940s to today.

Pounds said a call to artists would be going out in the next few months and from these applications three artists would be chosen to compete. For more information or to give suggestions, call 312 427-2724 or visit muralart.org.

But Jay Mulberry, father of the organizer and one of the artists of the original 47th St. project, shared this objection:

I am writing in reference to the July 11 report on plans for the 47th Street viaduct. Unfortunately I was out of town at the time of the meeting discussed and the publication of your story.

Hyde Parkers need to understand that the graffiti murals under the 47th Street viaduct were maintained for 10 years by a group of young artists through an agreement I had with Metra. Those on the north side were permanent; those on the south were changed about every year. The murals were well known. Artists from all over the country came to see them and, when invited, add to them. Among them were highly respected graffiti muralists such as Rafa, Zore, Raven and Desi.

On September 7, 2006 the entire 23 panels were painted over by the city without notification being given to the rights-holder (me) or, as far as I know, to Metra. At that time Alderman Preckwinkle publicly claimed that this destruction was a "mistake" and that the artists would be given a chance to paint the area again.

Recently, however, Metra has withdrawn our right to paint the walls and Alderman Preckwinkle has begun to look for other artists. From your article I gather that she would like to see pictures of local heroes and musicians lining the walls.

However much Alderman Preckwinkle may prefer heroic portraits at an entrance to our community, the process of having them painted involves destruction and theft. The walls contained legitimate works of art, some of great sophistication, which were legally painted. The young people who worked on them did so with the high seriousness of any artistic endeavor, and at their own expense. The murals were vigorous expressions of youth culture and their destruction is a militant disrespect of that culture. (Can you imagine the outrage if Olivia Gude's "Where We Come From ..." at 56th and Lake Park had been similarly abused?)

"Taking out" the murals at 47th Street was an illegitimate act and, whatever your artistic taste, it should be condemned. As promised by Alderman Preckwinkle, the artists who organized and maintained the site for years should be brought back to do the work again.

For more information see http://highergliffs.com.

Jay F. Mulberry

Coverage of the objection, and answers from Ald. Preckwinkle, Pounds, others

Metra ends contract with muralists. Hyde Park Herald, August 1, 2007. By Nykeya Woods

Creators of local murals are outraged, claiming they are being kept in the dark as the alderman and art groups decide the fate of the white-washed viaduct walls at 47th Street and Lake Park avenue that once displayed their art.

Metra recently cancelled its contract with the 47th Street murals' creators, cutting off their access to the viaduct walls. The agreement gave them ongoing access to the walls, allowing for maintenance of and changes to the pieces.

"It's sad that the community where I come from, the community that I was born and raised in and made me want to be an artist like this is literally throwing away my artwork and spitting on it," said artist Sam Mulberry.

Mulberry, who called the alderman and the art groups' response "heinous," designed "Twelve Doorways of Perception," which used to be on the northern half of the 47th Street viaduct with 12 other graffiti and paintbrush artist's work in the late 1990s. He said that Fourth Ward Ald. Toni Preckwinkle, who admitted there was a mistake made, guaranteed to include them in the new mural production. "She promised that we would be the artists to restore it because it was a mistake. They destroyed our artwork," said Mulberry of the actions of the Department of Transportation. Mulberry teaches graffiti in Northern California and was born and raised in Hyde Park.

Preckwinkle denies any exclusion. Instead, she maintains that the muralists were invited to participate and literally haven't shown up. "They are welcomed to join the process if they wish," Preckwinkle said. "We've had a couple open meetings in which we have invited people. They haven't come. This is a process where you work with the people who show up and they haven't."

Despite Preckwinkle's claim, Mulberry believes that the incident, which occurred last fall, was planned. He said that the alderman purposely never made an attempt to contact him or any other artist, and that the parties involved have no respect for them. "Honestly, it was a set up. There are no two ways about it. She deliberately had the walls destroyed and now she is deliberately leaving us out of the process of creating them. It's wrong," he said. "The City of Chicago has vandalized our artwork."

Mulberry, who is on a cross-country mural trip, is also infuriated by the fact that in order to create new artwork, he and the other artists would have to submit a proposal to the Chicago Public Art Group. The Chicago Public Art Group, along with t he Hyde Park Art Center and South Side Art Center, are sending out proposals to area artists in the near future.

Artists advocate Liz Lazdins is working with Mulberry and several other members of the original group to ensure their voices are heard. She plans on talking with Preckwinkle and the art groups and to ask that priority be given to the original artists. "I think it's a tragedy that the wall got painted over," Lazdins said. "I thought it was beautiful. Compared to some of the murals we have in our viaducts, it was in really good condition."

And like Mulberry, Lazdins thinks that painting the viaducts white was a form of vandalism. "I feel like it was just vandalism to our community. I think that other mural artists would understand that," Lazdins said. Lazdins also said that artist who submit proposals to the Chicago Public Arts Group should stand in solidarity with the original artists.

Jon P0unds, executive director of the Chicago Public Arts Group, is spearheading the request for proposal and said that the original artists are not excluded. "I would hope that they would still participate, that they would see the RFP as an opportunity," Pounds said.


The other murals

From the Sept. 10 2007 TIF. mtg. minutes. Artists selected

53rd and 55th Street Mural Project Update: John Pounds, Director of the Chicago Public Art Group, Chuck Thurow, Hyde Park Arts Center, and Faheem Majeed, South Side Community Art Center are "curators" for the panels and murals at these sites. Four artists have been selected--Calvin Jones, Margaret Burroughs, John Himmelfarb, and Terry Evans--whose works lend themselves to art panels for the site. Lighting and a protective coating are also part of the project. In addition, part of the mural on the south side of 55th - Alewives and Victory Fish- will be preserved.

Hyde Park Herald, June 6, 2007. By Nykeya Woods

The South Side Community Art Center, the Hyde Park Art Center and the Chicago Public Art Group are soliciting local artists to refurbish several historic murals. Plans include 55th, 56th and 57th streets. Talks began when the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) whitewashed murals at the 51st and 47th street viaducts during improvements.

Jon Pounds, executive director of the Chicago Public Art Group, said that several panels will be installed during the renovation as "an outdoor gallery for artists."

His organization is spearheading the proposal, which was announced at last month's [May 14, 2007] 53rd Street Tax Increment Financing (TIF) Advisory Council meeting. Artists who live between 2nd and 79th streets and the Dan Ryan Expressway and the lake are encouraged to submit their work. "The interest is in making this geographically specific ...to artists who have made the South Side of Chicago a part of their complex history," Pounds said.

Pounds said once the proposal is sent out by mid-June, the next step will be to restore the viaduct murals, two of which were created by Hyde Parker Astrid Fuller in the 19070s.

Fuller is delighted that her murals at 57th Street--"The History of Hyde Park" and "The History of Social Work" will be restored. Each mural will be photographed, washed and sealed with an acrylic varnish and then the existing paint will be used as a guideline to redraw and repaint.

Fuller said that she would not be interested in creating new artwork. "Well I have enough of my statements up there," she said. "I would have to have someone do most of the climbing work. Its' been quite some years since I climbed up a scaffolding."

South Side community Art Center Curator Faheem Majeed said that he and Chuck Thurow of the Hyde Park art Center are helping Pounds decide which artists are selected. "Being one of the oldest African-American art institutions in the country, we have lists of artists with varying ranges of mediums and aesthetics who would be able to handle this," Majeed said.

[Ed.--Means of blowing up or adjusting scale and new, inexpensive means of reproduction, materials and attachments make this feasible, according to Pounds. Meantime, the 47th and 51st murals will not come back- see below]


New proposal for niche mosaics by schools in 57th/Lake Shore Drive underpasses Rebecca Janowitz and Irene Sherr wrote the Herald in autumn 2006: [Note, this received a grant, amount undisclosed, from Harper Court Arts Council in December 2008.]

There is a wonderful proposal for a mosaic created by school children a the 57th Street underpass to Lake Shore Drive under the superb direction of Hyde Park artist Mirtes Zwierzynski. The Chicago Public Art Group is prepared to spearhead the fund-raising for this and for the restoration of the other murals, at 55th, 56th and 57th streets that meet CPAG's rubric.

More on the project form the Jackson Park Advisory Council December 11 minutes:

A public art project was introduced by guests Lauren Moltz, coordinator and volunteer on councils and boards of schools and numerous organizations; Jon Pounds, director of the Chicago Public Art Group, and Mirtes Zwierzynski, directing artist. The project would consist of placing mural mosaics in up to 64 niches (554 square feet) in the two underpasses under South Lake Shore Drive and 57th Drive that were built by Chicago Department of Transportation with recessed surfaces, with such public art in mind. The mosaics would be of hard-fired, close-set ceramic that would take up virtually no water and would be extremely difficult to deface and easy to clean off, as attested by the many such mosaics around the metropolitan area. The Hyde Park Art Center and Ms. Zwierzynski will oversee the production of colored tiles by students of nearly every school. To date most of the elementary schools in Hyde Park have signed on; Ms. Zwierzynski has helped several already to make and install murals in their schools. Mosaic production is curricular-imbedded and involves four teachers at each school. Opening involvement to other schools near the park was requested by JPAC, and participation by or presentation to other organizations was suggested. Ms. Moltz and Mr. Pounds will coordinate participation and fund raising, with as much as $100,000 budgeted if all the niches are to be filled over the next set of years. The theme or set of themes is under consideration but could include neighborhood and or park and other history, features, nature, people, activities or concerns. For information, Mr. Pounds suggested people visit the Chicago Public Art Group website—www.cpag.net.

Peterson moved that: Resolved, JPAC supports the 57th and Lake Shore Drive Underpass Public Art Project. Upon second by Louise McCurry, the motion was unanimously approved.

Students learn by creating art for public, new art selected to brighten Lake Park viaducts.

InsideOut Fall 2007.

True public art is an enduring expression of a community and the people within it. So says Mirtes Zwierzynski, a public artist, muralist, and mosaicist who for twenty years has worked closely with Chicago area youth to create just such artistic expressions. Much of her work takes place under the umbrella of the Chicago Public Art Group, which engages communities and artists in creating high quality public art.

Mirtes is working with students from Bret Harte and Canter Schools on several mosaics for the pedestrian underpass at 57th Street and Lake Shore Drive. Their collaborative project began in October [2007] at the Hyde Park Art Center with the help of a $9,950 neighborhood beautification grant from the South East Chicago Commission funded by the University of Chicago. The underpass has concrete insets of various sized and shapes waiting for the mosaics that will be installed in spring 2008.

Mirtes says she helps young people create public art "first of all the bring art where there is no art. I do this because I believe that everybody has something to express. Everybody has some sense of art."

And collaboration is much bigger than the personal lives of individuals, she explains. "Collaborative art projects involve these students in a process of reflection, sharing, and creating together. They learn respect for the group. They learn both to give and to give up. Sometimes the group decides a student's sketch is too small or to big, and the process starts over again. Through this kind of intense collaboration they learn more about themselves, each other, and how to make judgments about values they have."

[Mirtes worked with student on decoration of water fountains on 3 floors at Canter School.] Visit Chicago Public art Group website, http://www.cpag.net.


Destruction of 47th murals. Summary, letters from original project organizer Sam Mulberry, reports and comments

June 2007: Through personal communication, this page has learned that it is not likely that the lost murals will be replicated or replaced by new by the organization and artists who made them or by others. Also, Metra has rescinded the lease or agreement of rights to do art on the 47th walls.

On September 8, 2006 a city crew whited out the murals on the 47th viaduct walls, apparently with erroneous instructions from the alderman's office. This was a part of the city's whiting of "unhistoric" murals and graffiti preparatory to the Lake Park/viaducts rehabilitation project to start later this year. Alderman Preckwinkle upon notification of the mistake and ability to assess the situation, called back the oversight organization, Higher Gliffs in California to apologize and assure them that she would try to get the means for Higher Gliffs to redo the murals. Higher Gliffs is headed by artist Sam Mulberry, son of Hyde Parkers Jay and Alice Mulberry. It is unknown yet who will paint new murals and whether those on the north side, which are permanent rather than changing, will be a restoration, similar design or new. View also in the Higher Gliffs site, http://www.highergliffs.com/index.htm.

#1. Project organizer Sam Mulberry writes the following to the community, September 2006

Sam Mulberry
Weapons of Mass Expression

For additional information or comments, please contact Sam Mulberry at the email address listed above.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Please look at http://highergliffs.com,
What We Lost:

It is with deep sadness that I report the destruction of some of my and my friends and colleagues' oldest lasting works of art. It is often difficult for murals to survive over the years and our projects at 47th Street were stalwart holdouts, hardly even being vandalized in 10 years of existence.

The concept for the projects was developed by Mario Gonzalez and myself during the summer of 1996. We designated the north wall as the “Twelve Doorways of Perception” and invited 12 incredible artists to share their spirituality on that wall. My section was one of my first solo murals (although I got some help from Steph G who was doing the Hebrew mural at the time). The project took two years to complete and I was there most of the time when each artist painted, also picking them up at their houses and bringing them home. Ivan Watkins had a special impact on me when he swept the area in front of his mural and inspired me to sweep the entire block. It really created a fresh feeling to have that huge walkway clean. It rained the night after he painted and his mural had lots of drips because of it, but it still looked amazing. We also painted the “Where are the Trees” mural on 51st and Lake Park across from Kenwood that first summer.

The south wall was a showcase mural, repainted annually until Wyatt Mitchell died two years ago. We brought lots of Chicago graffiti writers and well as some from San Francisco, even some Germans, to the “International Gallery of Style.” Those painting sessions were a lot of fun. When Wyatt died, all of his friends painted all the different graffiti names he used on that wall as a memorial. It took up probably 7 or 8 of the 11 sections available. He has several memorials throughout Hyde Park but that one was definitely special.

I was so shocked when Ivan called me to tell me that he had just watched someone paint over his section as he drove by last week. This isn’t the first time that the city has painted over one of our viaducts by mistake. But it will be the first time that we as community require them to have us restore it. Right now, Alderman Preckwinkle has apologized and admitted that it was a mistake to destroy the murals. She has given me her word that they are looking into having us restore or paint new works. It will take time, but I ask that we remain vigilant in holding her to her word. I appreciate all those who have called her and who check in periodically to make sure that this stays on her radar. At this point, there is no more reason to be angry, just resolute in our position that we need to repaint that viaduct and that the original artists should be the ones to do it, as well as compensated for our work. Last, after the new mural is completed, it would be powerful to make the place a landmark, so that this doesn’t happen again.

Again, I appreciate all of you who have called or written. I see all the messages that you send my dad. Thank you so much for your support. I really am grateful to have my home community backing me so much.


Sam Mulberry
Weapons of Mass Expression


Hello, again--After reading my message yesterday, several people asked what they could do. I am grateful that they asked and sorry that I didn't say something before.

I and all those who are upset about the destruction of the 47th Street murals would greatly appreciate your:
1) Contacting Alderman Preckwinkle. She seems to want to correct her mistake, but it is always good to show a politician that the community is behind her. Let her know that you feel strongly about the walls and want to have them painted again
Phone: 773-536-8103 email: tpreckwinkle@cityofchicago.org

2) Letting other people know. So far the message has reached only a tiny fraction of those who would like to receive it. .

Thank you.

Sam Mulberry
Weapons of Mass Expression


#2. September 20 Herald. Sam Mulberry: Saddened by murals' demise

It is with deep sadness that I report the destruction of some of my and my friends' and colleagues' oldest lasting works of art. It is often difficult for murals to survive over the years and our projects at 47th Street were stalwart holdouts, hardly even being vandalized in 10 years of existence.

The concept for the projects was developed by Mario Ganzalez and myself during the summer of 1996. We designated the north wall as the "Twelve Doorways of Perception" and invited 12 incredible artist to share their spirituality on that wall. My section was one of my first solo murals (although I got some help from Steph G who was doing the Hebrew mural at the time). The project took two years to complete and I was there most of the time when each artist painted, also picking them up at their houses and bringing them home. Ivan Watkins had a special impact on me when he swept the area in front of his mural and and inspired me to sweep the entire block. It really created a fresh feeling to have that huge walkway clean. It rained the night after he painted and his mural had lots of drips because of it, but it still looked amazing. We also painted the "Where are the Trees" mural on 51st and Lake Park across from Kenwood that first summer.

The south wall was a showcase mural, repainted annually until Wyatt Mitchell died two years gao. We brought lots of Chicago graffiti writers as well as some from San Francisco, even some Germans, to the "International Gallery of Style." Those painting sessions were a lot of fun. When Wyatt died, all of his friends painted all the different graffiti names he used on that wall as a memorial.

I was so shocked when Ivan called me to tell me that he had just watched someone paint over his section as he drove by last week. This isn't the first time that the city has painted over one of our viaducts by mistake. But it will be the first time that we as community require them to have us restore it.

Jon Pounds (Chicago Public Art Group- www.cpag.net) Comments to the Herald September 27 2006

Murals chronicle area's history

So what's the big deal about painting out a mural? History is made all t he time; its not simply the choices and actions of historic moments and characters. The complex history of the South Side is written into the buildings and walls and memories of its residents. The complexity of that history results in buildings parks and murals that create a rich, layered, visual field.

Not every person has to love a building, a park, or a mural for it to have important meaning to that layered history. If that were the case, we would have a denuded, sterile environment; few buildings, monuments, or murals would ever be created.

Chicago Public Art Group advocates for honoring, even loving, the complex layering that creates a city. When, over time, people decide to take artistic action, they transform the city creating a dialogue about choice, beauty, style and meaning.

The murals of Hyde Park deserve careful consideration. They are the layered history of people's choices. While many murals really need restoration, they nonetheless tell important stories.

So let's not be quick to paint out murals. Murals beautify surfaces that otherwise would be quickly waterstained and, frankly, ugly. The murals at 47th Street may have seemed illegible to some, but those murals were created out of artistic passion and belief in the importance of personal expression. They should be renewed and replaced.

Two letter writers in the Herald of October 11 - Chris Fama and Maryal Stone Dale, said good riddance to murals. Dale said the original murals were art, not graffiti, but have been messed up by graffiti artists, who should be discouraged by just using plain paint. Fama said that major access points should be "bright, clean and inviting." Dale clarified October 25 that she meant "clean" and of any appropriate material, such as brick.

But John and Brenda Murphy say "No" to white walls in Oct 18 2006 Herald

We have followed with interest and then disappointment your coverage and then the letters you have received regarding the destruction of the 47th Street murals. Having spent nearly all of our adult years in Hyde Park, we have seen our community evolve in ways that we find both beneficial and destructive. among the more positive developments has been the adaptation of our neighborhood to the ever-changing contemporary urban culture.

The artwork that was produced by our young people for the 47th Street viaduct was an important expression of that ever-evolving process; its destruction, whether accidental or deliberate, diminishes the vibrancy of our community.

While undoubtedly expressed without malice, the call by a few in your paper for the return of "white walls" conjures up in our minds a very unfortunate symbol of times long gone by in Hyde Park. we say NO to "white walls" and YES to the return of our urban soul as expressed by the youth of our city!


What was supposed to be the disposition of the murals, according to the city's Lake Park-Metra project prospectus in 2004:

Three murals were then slated to be restored (but that on 55th may not be now?): "Under City Stone" on the north wall of 55th, "Pioneer Social Work" by Hyde Parker Astrid Fuller on the north wall of 57th, and "Spirit of Hyde Park" also by Fuller, on the south wall of 57th. Funds have not been identified. The murals on 47th were to be left as they are-(endorsed by Chicago Public Art Group). To be hidden behind panes are "The Wheel of Time" on the north wall of 51st, "The Circle Journey" on the south wall of 53rd, and "Alewives and Mercury Fish" by Albert Zeno on the south wall of 55th.The South East Chicago Commission already has funded preservation of two on the south side of 56th each by Olivia Gude "Where Have You Been, Where Are You Going" on pillars, partly obscured by new construction, and four abstracted women at the east end of that viaduct wall by Gude and William Walker. The Public Art Group said its standard was connection with the community, historic importance, and impact on other muralists.

Note that Jon Pounds of the Chicago Public Art Group has reaffirmed that it recommended that murals on 47th, 55th, 56th and 57th be restored and maintained.

See following table

The following was modified from a table provided by Irene Sherr, counsel to the TIF, based on letter dated October 15, 2002 by Jon Pounds.

Viaduct Mural Name Artist Rest. in Prog. Restor. recomm'd Maintain Recomm. no restoration
47th north 12 Doorways of Perception Artists org. by Higher Gliffs.     X [2006: restore/new  
47th south International Gallery of Style citywide graffiti and other artists     X rotates about yearly  
51st north ? ?       X
51st south No mural- brick          
53rd north No mural- brick          
53rd south The Circle Journey Stephanie George, Ammar Tate, Beatriz Santiago Munoz, local youths       X
55th north Under City Stone Caryl Yasko   X    
55th south Alewives and Mercury Fish Albert Zeno       X
56th north No mural          
56th south Childhood is without Prejudice _____________
Where We Come From...Where We Are Going
William Walker__
Olivia Gude

X (then)

X (then)



57th north Pioneer Social Work Astrid Fuller X (?) X    
57th south Spirit of Hyde Park Astrid Fuller   X    
59th north No mural [not true]          
59th south No mural          
60th north No mural          
60th south No mural [not true]          


Rebecca Janowitz and Irene Sherr give the current lowdown on murals, call for support for new opportunities. Also call for 47th artists to share ideas with community and news of a new proposal for the Lake Shore Drive underpass.

To the Herald, October 25, 2006. Public art is alive in Hyde Park

Public Art is alive and in need of support in Hyde Park. A living tradition of public art enriches our shared environment. Respecting the past while making sure that there is room for future artists to work is a balancing act. Respecting the integrity of individual artists while acknowledging a range of voices in the community is a high wire balancing act. As challenging as this is, positive things are happening.

The mural at 56th Street has been identified, under the rubric created by the Chicago Public Art Group, as a strong candidate for restoration. While the work has been delayed by station renovations, funding has been secured from the University of Chicago and the South East Chicago Commission for this project. The mural, recently celebrated by the Chicago Tribune as one of the five most significant pieces of public art in Chicago, will be appropriately restored by the artist.

The upcoming renovation of the viaduct at 53rd and 55th streets will improve their safety and pedestrian appeal. There is a perfect opportunity to restore the mural on the north side of 55th Street but the funding is not currently available.

There is a wonderful proposal for a mosaic created by school children a the 57th Street underpass to Lake Shore Drive under the superb direction of Hyde Park artist Mirtes Zwierzynski. The Chicago Public Art Group is prepared to spearhead the fund-raising for this and for the restoration of the other murals, at 55th, 56th an 57th streets that meet CPAG's rubric.

To preserve these works of art and support new ones, the community must step up to the plate, as patrons as well as critics. Because public art as a category of artistic endeavor focuses on reflecting the deep concerns of the community, the opportunity for patronage and participation supports a vital connection.

The murals at 47th Street pose a thornier question than letters to the Herald have admitted. While recognizing the artist's commitment to his point-of-view, it must be acknowledged that the Spray Can movement, especially as it first emerged from graffiti art, has not sought the connection with the community truly public art encompasses.

The artist has the right, granted to him by Metra. to repaint the murals at 47th Street. Will drawings for any proposed murals at 47th Street submitted to Metra be shared with the community? The opportunity for a conversation with the community exists and could greatly increase community acceptance.

Hopefully Hyde Parkers will continue to have public art to be proud of and undoubtedly no one will like all of the public art. Discussion should be welcomed, the need for change and growth acknowledged and the necessity of fund-raising should call forth assistance from a variety of sources.


More comments

Rosellen Brown and Marvin Hoffman say murals part of Hyde Park History--bring the artists back.

Jack Spicer says, Restore 47th Street mural.

This kind of loss can induce a form of cultural amnesia. Restoration would bring back part pf our cultural consciousness and restore faith in the integrity of local government.


Reports and comments

Herald, September 20, 2006: Residents demand action, answers from aldermen, CDOT.
By Nykeya Woods

The 52st Street viaduct mural was discovered behind a coat of white paint over the weekend [of September 16-17]. that happened just as the Hyde Park community mourned the loss of another significant mural at 47th Street, which a city work crew had whitewashed Sept. 7.

Now one former Hyde Park resident hopes Ald. Toni Preckwinkle (4th) will correct the mistake / "We had all different cultures represented on that wall," said Sam Mulberry, referring to the 47th Street mural. Mulberry, who now lives in Northern California, wa 18 yeas old when he began painting murals along with Mario Ganzales, one of Higher Gliffs' founders, in 1996.

The two brought together other graffiti and paintbrush artists to "Twelve Doorways of Perception" on the northern half of he 47th Street viaduct. "It took a really long time to complete the north side because we chose specific artists," said Mulberry, who created the Buddha near the end. Other murals represented Mayan, African and Aztec spirituality. Mulberry, who teaches graffiti art to high school students, said each mural represents spiritual reality, with him focusing on yoga and meditation.

Two years passed, working mainly in the summer, before the group completed both sides of the viaduct. The murals honor other graffiti artists who have died. That is another reason why its artists are so upset, Mulberry said. The death of artist Wyatt Mitchell brought several of the artists back to the area. "A lot of the original people came back and painted his name. He had like seven or eight different graffiti's. They painted each one as a memorial to them," Mulberry said.

Now that the damage is done, Mulberry would like to come back and create more murals with the original artists. "The people involved in destroying it... they need to bring us back," Mulberry said. "[to] give us a chance to create something new and vibrant."

Ald. Toni Preckwinkle (4th) said she has talked with Mulberry and will work on replacing the murals. "A mistake was made," Preckwinkle said. "Unfortunately, we should have been looking to preserve the one at 47th Street, and they got whitewashed."

Chicago Public Art Group Executive Director Jon Pounds learned about the whitewash via email and said the destruction of the artwork was a terrible loss for the neighborhood. The agency has been involved with recommending viaduct restorations. "I think the site has been one which has been self maintained. The community that created it continued with the responsibility of keeping it looking good," Pounds said.

According to the 4th Ward office, the murals at 47th and 51st Street were whitewashed by the Chicago Department of Transportation as part of an ongoing viaduct improvement program.

CDOT spokesman Brian Steele said he was unaware of his agency's involvement and at Herald presstime was looking into the matter. Top

Mural artist Astrid Fuller calls for restorations

Herald, November 15 2006

I was saddened that t he 49th Street "graffiti" murals were accidentally obliterated. It was mentioned in one Herald letter that graffiti artists had no respect the other murals in Hyde Park. In fact, it as many years before they were defaced, and then only when the weather and wall conditions had caused much deterioration.

I am hopeful that they and the other Hyde Park murals, including my own, "The Spirit of Hyde Park," "Pioneer Social Work" and "No Frills or Fads" (which depicts the history of the Chicago Public schools), can be restored. This would require financial support.

I would be glad to work with our local aldermen and interested residents to make this happen. The Chicago Public Art Group has indicated its willingness to work on the walls originally executed under its aegis. Top



Final planning being done for phases I, II for summer/fall 2007 start

The working group that meets with Department of Transportation and other city project managers is hurrying to make final adjustments and hold a public presentation/ discussion at the May 14 2007 TIF meeting, so plans will be ready for the end of June, so funding can be assured. Work (other than the signal work under way now)
is expected to run from May 15 into October. Note that these 2 phases do not include rebuilding Lake Park, its sidewalks or lighting replacement. Major immediate decisions are over proportions of historic photographs and original art are to be shown in the blown up art panels (decision seems to have been for the latter).

Anything that would trigger lengthy state review, such as street surfacing or curb work will have to be deferred. Also the table at this time is work beyond the street, sidewalk and intersection edges. Real money, in the $2 million each range from Metra, the city, Rep. Currie, and some possibly from aldermanic menu money has been assembled to do the most critical work in both wards first. This will be the 53rd, 55th (Phase I) and then 51st and 57th viaducts (with planning money in place and work expected in 2008) and 53rd and 55th intersections including the signal lights scheduled in Phase I. Mentioned for audible countdown signals was only 55th. (53rd signals and sidewalks are already under construction, 55th including crosswalk reconfiguration will come hopefully in summer or early fall.) In later phases will be 56th, 59th and 60th. There was talk of assembling money to at least white-spray surfaces not to be restored until late (47th being a different case)- especially 59th. The initial phases include some stretches of embankment planting and maintenance (to be paid for by U of C.- presently covered are 53rd to 55th and half stretch north from 57th toward 56th.) More stretches are encompassed but not funded. Note that such major changes as cutting traffic drop-offs into the raised sidewalks are not possible. Members called attention to lack of a storm drain at the northeast corner of Lake Park by Cafe Istria, which dips, leading to water impoundment.

Needing discussion at the May 14 public meeting (as well as more discussion with CTA) will be the pros and cons of eliminating the crosswalk on the east side of 51st due to the tightness of space for the projected ADA compliant ramps.

Changes in the viaducts will include full ADA treatment, sidewalks (which cannot be changed in elevation due to infrastructure beneath), patching and spraying columns, blasting the upper parts bare (recognizing that these will not be permanent fixes), new railings along the streets, new balustrades along the tops, installing appropriate metal arch supports ("vents) that will hold new lighting in the middle of the sidewalks and indirect lighting along the edges as well as water-catching troughs and holders for graffiti-proof metal, art-holding panels slightly removed from the outer walls. Hope is to have clearer signage and markings. The contract is more flexible and friendly with Metra than with Canadian National, but in both cases, the installations will have to be capable of easy removal for inspections, utility work, or changes. Final decision has not been made on whether the metal arches should call attention to themselves or fade into the background. There is no funding for or approval to work on the old skylights in the middle of the viaducts.)

The Chicago Public Arts Group, led by Jon Pounds and working with city departments, and the Hyde Park Art Center will take a quick look at modern inexpensive but secure acrylic-based transfer methods for large panels for spaces that will not have current murals restored (in acrylic and after viaduct work) and will present options --art, historic photos, or color panels or a combination-- to school groups and public meetings-- but decisions have to be made by June 30 and only $100,000 is now available.

Murals to be restored are the north side of 55th, north side of 56th, and both sides of 57th. The artists are willing to oversee or do restoration and there is funding to pay students to help.

Every effort will be made to phase the work and maintain total, including ADA access through at least one viaduct at each street at all times, although occasionally one side will have to be closed when raising arches or building the ADA ramps.

The embankments will have wrought-iron fences at the top of the grades by the tracks. Trees will be planted at the bottom of slopes where possible but otherwise have low low-maintenance prairie-mix pre-tested cover (template reported as approved by LILAC). The plants will be watered with bio-degradable drip piping and tended during establishment, but will thereafter be mostly self sustaining. U of C and SECC will tend and provide (with Cleanslate where there is the TIF) trash cleaning. This phase will not require removal or installation of walls. While similar planting is anticipated for the Lake Park medians, it was not clear to this reporter whether that is in fact to be done in these phases.



A new task force on needs of persons with disabilities was formed after a forum September 6, 2006. Formed by the 5th Ward Office Alderman Hairston, Hyde Park Chamber of Commerce, and Hyde Park Kenwood Community Conference, one of its first tasks will be to look again at Lake Park, 55th, and viaducts to see what improvements are needed to walks and ramps, signals, and signs, especially such as can be folded into the Lake Park Project. Aldermen Preckwinkle and Hairston were notified of desire for input in the Lake Park/Viaducts rehabilitation project for later this year, and of conditions on 55th and Lake Park for disabled and elderly.

The Chicago Department of Transportation announced in September that it will be accepting bids fro the viaducts 47th to 60th, starting with 53rd and 55th. The $16.8 million project is expected to start as early as the end of the year, as soon as the paperwork for the federal funding part is done. It will use the steel archway construction discussed in the sub pages of this web section. Involved are landscaping (maintenance partly borne by the University of Chicago), painting, column patching, lighting and guardrails. The future of the murals except 47th and 56th was uncertain. A panel or art covering may be used, at least for most. Dripping water will be diverted away. People involved including Irene Sherr of Community Counsel aver the areas will be clean and light. The project will be in five phases, and as work starts will be posted in www.cityofchicago.org/transportation. Already old murals and dingy sections are being whited.


October 27 2005, Thursday, 6:30 pm. William Walker and the first generation of Hyde Park viaduct and Chicago muralists were honored by the Chicago Public Arts Group at the Three Arts Club, 1300 N. Dearborn. Walker's "Childhood is Without Prejudice" at 56th St. and "Under City Stone" at 55th will be restored next year. More in Metra Viaducts-Lake Park page and the Metra Stations page. 312 427-2724.

A request for funding was submitted in August 2005 for Phase I, work on 53rd and 55th under Metra and on Lake Park, based on mid-stage completed drawings. An answer is expected about December 2005. (The skylights will not be included. The designers did take seriously criticisms at TIF Streetscape Committee meetings; how much simplification there will be is unclear.) The Committee in August considered what can be done short-term or in case the proposal is rejected, but decided to wait for the answer. Meanwhile, hopes for involving the Canadian National are even more remote with the latter's withdrawal from the CREATE citywide freight rail reconfiguration that envisioned abandonment not only of the old IC-St. Charles tracks near 18th but the entire stretch south to Grand Crossing, with their trains then going northwest to 33rd and Western.

The Streetscape Committee heard reports in summer 2005 on the Lake Park/Metra Viaducts project. A phase I (53rd and 55th under viaduct and Lake Park work) proposal was sent in August 2005 to IDOT Transportation Enhancement, which is 80% federally funded. Total cost of the phase I is $4 million. We should hear a response at end of year. The committee's concerns were fully presented before proposal finalized. Metra has committed $2 million; an intergovernmental agreement will be needed. Work is supposed to include Canadian National sections also. This project is supposed to include work on Lake Park, particularly the embankment and planting of the later 51st to 53rd, bus stop enhancement, and crosswalk rationalization and re striping, and redoing the signal lights. Work on the walls, murals, columns, ground surface (including streets) of the viaduct area would be quite comprehensive but probably not include the skylights and certainly no addressing of leak issues. Complaints were expressed about locations and style of the new Metra station signs all along the neighborhood. This had been brought to Metra, which was reported to be not very cooperative.

Members explored a something-for-now palliative, but decided that would be premature before hearing on the Proposal--and the project is moving up the priority list.

Members asked the consultant (Irene Sherr) to work with the planners to preserve the section (outside the TIF) of stone wall north of 59th St., also that the planners work with the Hyde Park Historical Society for the later-phase 55th to 56th work, especially the banks and walls.

There are requests to expand the hanging basket program to all of Harper Court and along Lake Park (?). Sherr suggested submitting this to the TIF Council.

Good news: Jerry Kleiner, developing the new restaurant in the north part of Harper Court tentatively called Harper Grill has provisionally committed to a major re landscaping in the vicinity of his restaurant.

The committee heard a report of the Parking Committees' thoughts on the 53rd Lake Park city lot, including repaving, striping, walks, fixing the fencing, way finding signage, et al. Members were receptive. Members were asked to join a walk through September 8 at 1 pm with the Dept. of Revenue. The City is expected to come up with a budget spread over 2-5 years.

Options for saving trees on 53rd were discussed with little encouraging found. The Department of Planning will not allow use of TIF money for such maintenance and operational needs. The company that maintains and waters the hanging baskets (funds raised independently in the community and from the University) says such tasks as tree watering are way beyond them. Members said property owners should be doing this, but it is the mandate of the committee to preserve and improve streetscape.

The consultant is exploring repainting the painted crosswalks on the entire TIF. Top

From March through May 2006 work was announced. Watch for public meetings this summer/fall.

June 2006 Rep. Currie reports funding received. (Note- Metra contributed about 2 million.)

Springfield Report, Hyde Park Herald, June 28, 2006

It's discouraging to come home, open the front door, and realize you forgot to tidy the place up before you left. And it's at least as bad when you open to door to a visitor who sees that your place is a mess.

Neighborhoods have front doors, too. For Hyde Park and Kenwood, Lake Park Avenue and its cross streets, from 47th to 57th, serve as an important entry point.

But these streets are hardly our neighborhood's most welcoming vista. The sidewalks crumble, the Metra retaining walls are in shambles, the few plantings on view are struggling and the ares under the train tracks are peeling paint and shedding concrete. Anyone who's driven, walked or biked along our Lake Park corridor recognizes improvements are way overdue.

Happily, help is on the way. The federal government's Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century provides money for state Transportation Enhancement Programs (ITEP in Illinois). The idea is to enhance transportation systems while building more livable communities and improving the quality of life.

I went to bat for the ITEP grant in Springfield. And I'm pleased to report that the Illinois Department of Transportation has awarded us $2.5 million to begin refurbishing our neighborhood's front door. Won't it be nice to have new lighting, new sidewalks, new guardrails, new plantings? Won't it be nice not to worry that the concrete under the Metra tracks might choose this moment to fall upon our heads?

Of course it will take more than a single season to finish the project. But the important news is that we've been approved and changes will begin to happen as soon as this coming fall. Work will begin on the 53rd and 55th streets viaducts. Both those cross streets and Lake Park Avenue will stay open for motorists and pedestrians, but some restrictions on parking will apply.

I'm grateful, of course, to the Illinois Department of Transportation and its Secretary, Tim Martin, for approving this ITEP grant. But we wouldn't have garnered his support without the hard work of 4th and 5th Ward alds. Toni Preckwinkle and Leslie Hairston, community consultant Irene Sherr and--it should go without saying--Cheri Heramb, head of the Chicago Department of Transportation.

ITEP grants are competitive grants. Our Lake Park Story was a very strong story. Working together, we told it--and we sold it.

Two murals will be redone by those originally involved.
In June the Chicago Public Art Group will undertake a 6-week restoration of "Childhood is Without Prejudice" (or Children Are the Future) by original producer Olivia Gude and early muralist William Walker, on the east end of the south side of 56th Street viaduct. Then Gude will repaint and extend into the station her highly praised 1992 mural on the west part of that viaduct, of figures with their interview comments: "Where we came from. Where we Are Going." The project will cost nearly $20,000, from the South East Chicago Commission and others. Jon Pounds of the Public Art Group hopes to secure funds to proceed to 55th Street and other murals.

Also announced was that work on Phase I Lake Park Avenue and 55th and 53rd viaducts will start in autumn 2006. This was recommended in the Vision for the Hyde Park Retail District in 2000 (see page) and applied for over the past few years by the TIF. There were several charette by the TIF Streetscape Committee. Total cost $16 m, this phase $4 m fully funded, half each Meta and the city. South East Chicago Commission and the University of Chicago will take over responsibility for the embankments.

In a March 2006 Herald commentary, Hannah Hayes called for support of rehab of the HP murals as a way to revitalize commitment to the arts in Hyde Park.

She recalls what artist Caryl Yasko's "Under City Stone" (inspired by a poem of James Agee and created with partial funding by the National Endowment for the Arts) on 55th Street has meant to her and tells of meeting her in March 2006 when she returned to Chicago to help the Chicago Public Arts group archive documents of he mural. Jon Pounds, director of CPAG, said that Yasko was the model and spark for the community art movement in the country and a founder of CPAG, who encouraged the explosion of murals here and elsewhere. Hayes calls the murals a visual history of the community and an impetus to oral storytelling. They form one of the four most important nodes of such art and are the most in need of repair. Yasko wants to return and repair "Under City Stone"--whether that will be permitted under the newly funded Lake Park/Metra project is uncertain. Restoration of the 56th mural starts summer, 2006 but CPAG will have to raise money if it wants more saved. CPAG also works in schools, including current creation of a playground mural by kids at Ray School.

Embankment planting south of 47th is finished and some has reverted to dried out weeds.
The ramps at new stations at 56th and 53rd finally came down. All stations are open but show evidence of poor workmanship in spots. The dedications planned for early October, including one honoring the Kenwood Commuters Association, were postponed. New low-rise walls clad with Joliet limestone and capped with Bedford limestone were built between 56th and 57th and started north of 53rd. Sections near the streets were beautifully landscaped (although not necessarily with native/sustainable plants) and sections between grassed.

The city, Metra, and Aldermen Hairston and Preckwinkle have put out a call for small vendors for the stations at 51st, 53rd, and 57th. Caffe Sienna will occupy those at 51st and 57th. It is unknown if there will be a store in 53rd. Complaints are made about the viaduct sections east of Metra.

Read the story of exhibit of Hyde Park mural photos by Leah Mayers at Vespine Gallery, 1907 S. Halsted during the entire month of October.


This part of the Metra-City of Chicago rehabilitation, part of an umbrella Lake Park/Metra rehabilitation study begun as both part of PlanningNow/53rd TIF streetscape planning and an extension of the Metra station rehabilitation project, has been separated off. Only a $100,000 IllinoisFIRST grant was available for immediate implementation of the Metra embankment part, so the parties--including LILAC's Richard Pardo, accepted eliminating the familiar limestone walls between 47th and 50th. (LILAC was formed in the late '80s in part to pressure Metra into rebuilding the walls, as well as to replace embankment clear cutting and herbicide planting with landscaping.) Some residents are outraged at the teardown and weak public notification or are dubious the slope will be stable and retain trees, shrubs and other plantings. Others point to the continuous failure of the walls, even where proper drainage facilities are included and regardless of whether the slope has been cleared or is choked with trees and scrub. Some of the limestone will be used to build bus shelters along close-adjoining Lake Park Avenue. Most of us, including the Hyde Park Historical Society and many of those supposedly in a larger Lake Park/viaducts focus group, were out of the loop on the complete wall removal 47th to 50th.

Pictures on the removal of the wall follow text. See what the originals of Illinois dolostone looked like in David Schalliol'swww.metroblossom.com/historical.

More background:

Sprucing up Metra’s viaducts and embankments, Lake Park Avenue- can improvements advance neighborhood improvement?

“Streetscape” is seldom a top radar subject except when something we enjoy is being altered or we are inconvenienced by construction. Yet streetscape is more than “amenities” and affects how we relate to our neighborhood and our perception of its health and direction. That’s why recent projects for the Metra viaducts and embankments and Lake Park Avenue matter, and matter that they be done optimally.
When we see mini-gardens, nice lamp posts with adequate but not garish lighting, special attention paid to intersection safety and treatments, and plentiful, attractive bus shelters and trash receptacles, we relate to our surroundings as well maintained, special, and welcoming. When streets, walks and furnishings are rundown or broken and we see to trash blowing and gathering on streets (commercial especially), open lots and railroad rights of way, we can feel we’re in a place where no one cares.

A few years ago, studies were undertaken and improvements made, especially on the 53rd commercial street, as part of a neighborhood upgrade strategy. Now attention has shifted to the Metra right of way and Lake Park Avenue from 47th to 60th Streets.

In the 1990s, an HPKCC affiliate program committee, Landscape Initiative for the Lake Park Avenue Corridor (L.I.LA.C.) under Richard Pardo, received grants to re landscape Metra embankment sections and lobbied Metra to repair and restore its limestone-block retaining walls. Both were daunting tasks and further plans were set aside with onset of station reconstruction.

Funding for planning and beginning implementation became available from the state (thanks to Representative Currie and Senator Obama), the Chicago Department of Transportation, Metra, and the South East Chicago Commission. Three results are evident to date:

1) Deteriorating limestone retaining walls were torn down early this year along the east side of Lake Park between 47th and 50th. Many residents and some organizations thought this was precipitous, done before overall planning was complete and with insufficient consultation and consideration of preservation or future restoration options. Members of the Hyde Park Historical Society have documented remaining walls and made suggestions to the 53rd St. Tax Increment District Streetscape Committee concerning restoring remaining wall sections, in lieu of either teardown or use of concrete with faux veneer.
2) The South East Chicago Commission undertook with the Chicago Public Art Group to research and evaluate all the viaduct murals and decide which should be conserved, maintained, or abandoned. Criteria includes: done by an important artist, relates to Hyde Park’s character, history and people, or is important in the art mural movement, which in some respects started here. PAG’s work was thorough and commitment was made by SECC to fund restoration, now, of 56th Street murals. Others are slated for work when funding is identified and the character of viaduct wall treatment has been determined. Most of the artists are available and willing to restore their works. PAG considers the mural on the south side of 55th (Fish Market and Alewives) significant and hopes it will be restored. There was some public disappointment that certain murals are to be abandoned. The Public Art Group, which sponsors creation of murals and gives tours of the many murals around the whole city, can be reached at 312 427-2724 or jonpounds@cpag.net.
3) The Chicago Department of Transportation has funded grants to plan improvements for the whole corridor. Concept planning is nearly complete and key decisions need to be made. The project has been divided into six phases, starting with the viaduct pedways--53rd first, starting in 2005-- and leaving Lake Park improvements in landscaping and pedestrian friendliness for last. Each phase does something in both the fourth and fifth wards.

Re landscaping the Metra embankment in a sustainable manner is still under study, with consultation in progress with LILAC and other gardening experts. Two treatments, depending on degree of slope, are envisioned. There has been community concern that some existing trees are kept and for variety of heights. Whether the constant litter problem can be fixed is unknown.

Viaduct treatments are likely to bring disagreements. Plans have already undergone several changes and now include, among general fix-ups, placing at every other column, lighting-bearing metal beams and posts running from the ground and across the ceiling (in some cases framing panels of mural or art on the outside wall). In recent drawings these appear to some fussy and pseudo 19th century. Streetscape Committee member question the justification for the high cost and wish to explore other, less intrusive lighting support.

Caveat: Metra continually insists the viaducts and their columns are structurally sound---but they can't keep spalling forever without serious damage (47th Lake Shore Drive viaduct had to have protective scaffolding until the whole viaduct was replaced). We learned on geologist Wigger's tour: Metal rebar, which reinforces the concrete from the inside, actually rusts over time and causes chemical weathering. This results in chunks of concrete periodically falling off the columns.

The Streetscape Committee holds open meetings irregularly and seeks additional members. Contact the 4th Ward Office to join or be placed on the notification list. The 53rd St. TIF Advisory Council next meets Monday, May 10, 7 pm at the Neighborhood Club.


Plans for Lake Park Avenue Corridor slowly progress but are far from written in stone, according to Maria Castaneda of CDOT who reported to the January, 2004 TIF Advisory Council. Minor improvements are planned for intersections, crosswalks, bulb outs and curb cuts. Much of this will wait evaluation of impact of the new BP Connect and McDonald's drive-through. The railroad embankment wall has been torn down 50th to 47th and the area awaits grading and landscaping this spring. More such work is planned in phases. Viaduct rehabilitation (the walls and columns, not the bridges) is envisioned also. Metra has committed $2 million, available in 2005 an 2006; request has been submitted (through Ald. Preckwinkle's Office?) for $2.9 from the city (CDOT-Mitigation?) .

January 11, CDOT gave more details on the Lake Park and viaducts planning (actually to 60th St.).

Preliminary designs for the 8 viaducts 47th to 60th call for decorative steel arches with more lighting, trees flanking entrances, and new sidewalks, facades, walls, and columns. Alderman Preckwinkle said the project is "focusing on brightening our community and infrastructure." Plans for Lake Park include resurfacing47th-57th, new street lighting, median and sidewalk landscaping, and corner extensions to protect pedestrians.

"Timelines are very general right now," said Maria Casteneda of CDOT. "At the very earliest we're looking for construction to begin in '05. If funding is in place." Staging is as follows:

Note: TIF documents sent prior to the May TIF meeting place Lake Park work in Phase 2.

At the February 24, 2004 TIF Streetscape Committee meeting, more detailed concept renderings were shared. Some preservationists questioned a general look of false historicity and agreed to supply a photodocumentation of the state of remaining limestone and concrete Metra embankment walls to the design team at the next TIF Advisory Council meeting.

The TIF Streetscape Committee met under its new Chairman, Andre Brumfield, to hear a detailed update from Janet Attarian of CDOT. (A copy of the book of drawings and sketches by DLK Architects is at the HPKCC office.) The project is conceived in 5 phases, each with some work in each of wards 4 and 5 and stretching from 47th to 60th. Only the first has some funding. The first emphasis will be on the Metra viaducts, then embankments, then street and sidewalk work. Phase 1 is in design. Funds assembled or requested for 2005 is $3.5 million. An intergovernmental agreement will be drawn up with Metra.

(Apart from the meeting, cautions were voiced about the feasibility and cost of the support design.) Questions were raised that some of the plan's furnishings (especially light posts and viaduct interiors) would give a "faux history" impression and be no cheaper or nicer than standard modern furnishings, about the future of various viaduct murals and limestone or concrete raised-tracks retaining walls and about "surprise" removal of the wall south of 47th Street. Preservationists raised issues about light posts and viaduct trusses meant to look like 1890s features that were never there and complained about being left out of such decisions as tearing down the embankment limestone wall between 47th and 50th. Members of the HPHS photo documented remaining wall in Hyde Park and presented this at the March TIF Advisory Council meeting.

Metra has committed $2 million toward viaduct rehabilitation, available in 2005 an 2006; request has been submitted (through Ald. Preckwinkle's Office?) for $2.9 from the city (CDOT-Mitigation?). State money was also provided through Rep. Currie and Sen. Obama. Central to the design is a series of trusses in the sidewalk vaults that will support enhanced/effective lighting, railings, artwork, improved surfaces, drainage, and more. Flashing and gutters (and pigeon control devices) are key to being able to preserve murals or panel art. The designers were praised for their careful work. Attarian noted that it was very hard to bring Metra or Canadian National to the table.

For Lake Park, to be one of the last phases,
minor improvements are planned for intersections, crosswalks, bulb outs and curb cuts, as well as new lighting and better means to reach bus stops. Much of this will wait evaluation of impact of the new BP Connect and McDonald's drive-through.

For the embankments, since money (connected to station rehab funding) -but not much- is available, the object is to remove or stabilize then landscape and beautify. Metra, we were told, has no maintenance crew for walls and embankments anymore. Weed trees are out of control and soil has slumped--its top at many places being way below the top of the walls in the 47th to 50th sector. The removed limestone is supposed to be used for bus shelters along Lake Park or used elsewhere. The walls by the Historical Society south of 55th St. will be refaced with 4 inch thick rusticated limestone. There will be weep hole drainage.

There was much discussion of sustainable landscaping (drought-resistant natives) and remarking that many of the plants in the template are far from self-maintaining or sustainable and "under consideration." Shown were crabs, persimmons, Rugosa rose varieties, coralberry, Butterfly Weed, Fragrant Sumac, Flowering Quince, Purple Coneflower, Penstemon, Black-eyed Susan, with two seed mixes including native grasses such as Little Blue Stem and Switch grass at the top and a floral mix at the bottom of the slope. Attendees asked that provisions controlling application of herbicides be written into the intergovernmental agreement with Metra. (Landscapers present said some of theses are not native and sustainable.)

April 14, the Streetscape Committee met again and decided to explore alternatives to the viaduct pedway treatment and preservation where possible of the Metra retaining walls. Jon Pounds of the Chicago Public Art Group also shared much expertise. Among additional murals the CPAG would like to see preserved is the Alewives and Mercury Fish mural on the south wall of 55th St.

April 14. The Streetscape Committee reconvened to review city recommendations. Several arguments were made against the frame-beaming proposals for inside the viaducts, and the committee decided it would explore alternatives such as barrel-shaped reflective light mountings on the street sides of the pedways, above the arches. The committee will also explore preservation of parts of the limestone embankment retaining walls. Jon Pounds of the Chicago Public Art Group shared his extensive expertise, as did several committee members. Pounds said he would explore funding for and restoration of the Fish Market and Alewives mural on the south wall at 55th St. This was not in the original restoration recommendations. He said those on 57th are the most critical and reported on costs and the general availability of artists to restore their works.

From the minutes by chair Andre Brumfield:
Issues raised by the chair:

  1. Steel columns that span vertically from ceiling to ground on both sides of the walkway are inappropriate. From an aesthetic standpoint they interfere with the existing columns. Must maintain integrity of the columns.
  2. If this option is deemed to be appropriate, only the steel beams on the ceiling should be used.
  3. New alternative presented by CDOT at previous Streetscape Committee meeting (heavy ornamentation on steel structure) was simply too fussy.
  4. CDOT has not shown how they intend to deal with the skylights.

Other issues raised by Committee

  1. Ceiling Treatment: CDOT must develop a strategy that addresses how the ceiling will be dealt with. Will the ceiling be painted? Will CDOT use some sort of paneling system?
  2. Structural issues related to the wall and ceiling. How will CDOT remedy the current "crumbling" conditions of the walls and ceiling? There is a fair amount of leakage in both the walls and the ceiling. There is also concern that if the steel columns and beams are implemented that they will rust, which could quickly develop into a maintenance issue.
  3. Issues concerning the use of steel beam and column: Potential rusting. Steel beams at ceiling do not seem to go all the way to the ceiling (as seen in the CDOT illustrations). This gap could be a potential nesting place for pigeons. What are the maintenance issues with this kind of system?
  4. Lighting. Committee would like CDOT to explore more exciting and cost-effective ways to light the viaducts and the murals. A way to "up-light" the ceiling was also discussed.
  5. Murals. Joe Pounds, Executive Director of the Chicago Public Arts Group, was in attendance to address concerns regarding the murals. After reviewing CDOT's alternative for placing the murals on panels, Pounds felt this "gallery effect" would have a negative impact on the murals and the overall space. He states that his organization would like the City and CDOT to preserve as many murals as possible; however, he does acknowledge that not all of them can be saved.

There are two murals that Pounds and his organization [consider?] as having high cultural significance but are not on the list for preservation:

Pounds stated that he, when appropriate, would like to work with the Streetscape Committee, the alderman and CDOT to identify local artists to work on the walls once vacant areas are identified.

Committee also discussed the need to address graffiti on the murals and how it is removed. It was agreed that the "whitewash" solution is not the best alternative and that it must be stopped.

Limestone Walls. Jack Spicer presented photos of the existing limestone walls. He expressed his desire to preserve all of the limestone walls and wanted to look into bringing on a technical expert or consultant to examine the existing conditions of the walls to develop a strategy for their preservation.

Other related issues. Dan Bitterman and Leslie Morgan expressed concern about the excessive trash building up along various spots along the rail lines as well as the lot at 53rd Street.


A tough call: which Metra viaduct murals should be saved and how? See more in next section. So far only 56th's is (partially) saved--work was delayed by station work and the artist's schedule, should be done in 2005. Issues include artists' contractual rights. Time to decide is short, since viaduct work starts in 2005 (along with embankment enhancement), commencing with 53rd Street. Part of the problem is perpetual water seepage The city Transportation and Planning design group has accepted the recommendations of the Public Art Group, a highly respected organization, vetted and passed on by a focus group led by South East Chicago Commission and the offices of Aldermen Hairston and Preckwinkle. (One mural, that on the south wall of 56th- "Where Do You Come From. Where Have You Been.." by Olivia Gude- has already been partially restored by the Public Art Group with SECC funding.) The following paragraph and the table referenced there lists those murals to be saved and or restored. The rest would be eliminated. There been some criticism of elimination of that on the north side of 51st Street, "Wheel of Time," made with much community involvement and signed by many children, many still living in Hyde Park. Artists whose murals are to be left or restored, including by the originally Hyde Park (1990s) now-California based group Higher Gliphs under John Mulberry (47th St. murals) are pleased. Any future murals will have a duration limit.

The TIF Landscape Committee February 24, 2004 heard recommendations from the Public Art Group (highly regarded) concerning murals on the viaducts. The recommendations have been accepted by the city. Three murals would be restored: "Under city stone" on the north wall of 55th, "Pioneer Social Work" by Hyde Parker Astrid Fuller on the north wall of 57th, and "Spirit of Hyde Park" also by Fuller, on the south wall of 57th. Funds have not been identified. The murals on 47th will be left as are. To be hidden behind panes or panels are "The Wheel of Time" on the north wall of 51st, "The Circle Journey" on the south wall of 53rd, and "Alewives and Mercury Fish" by Albert Zeno on the south wall of 55th.The South East Chicago Commission already funded preservation of two on the south side of 56th each by a noted artist "Where Have You Been, Where Are You Going" on pillars, partly obscured by new station construction, and four abstracted women at the east end of that viaduct wall. The Public Art Group said its standard was connection with the community, historic importance, and impact on other muralists. Visit the table showing mural status and authorship in Lake Park/Viaducts Plan Graphics Part 2-A.

Contacts and literature: Jon Pounds, Chicago Public Art Group, 312- 427-2724, jonpounds@cpag.net-- Contact information for the tour leader
Urban Art Chicago by Olivia Gude and Jeff Huebner -- One of the books that was frequently mentioned during the tour
Toward a People's Art by Eva Cockcroft, et al.
http://highergliffs.com and


HP social, political history set in stone

Hyde Park Herald, July 21, 2004. By Astrid Fuller for Hyde Park Historical Society

[Astrid] Fuller, a graduate of the School of Social Service Administration (Ludwig Mies van der Rohe) painted a mural of SSA's history in the building in 1988, in celebration of its centennial.

The "Age of Murals" in Hyde Park began with a bang when Caryl Yasko painted "Under City Stone" on the 55th Street Illinois Central underpass in 1972 and invited passers-by to join her.

In all, 44 people participated, with 12 returning faithfully. The theme was based on James Agee's poem "Rapid Transit" and below the inscribe poem are 133 life-size hurrying figures. One of her assistants, Albert Zeno, put up a mural on the opposite side of the underpass that same summer, called "Wall for the Atomic Age." It speaks to the pollution of the sea and its fish, caused by a mid-ocean atomic blast. [October 18, 1972 Zeno dedicated his mural on the south wall of 55th Street. Controversy and discussion ensue about HP's connections to surrounding neighborhoods and whether urban renewal has made it too drab. Some find the murals threatening and think it means gang takeover. Ed.] I was another of Vasko's assistants, and accepted an invitation to join the Chicago Mural Group, of which she was a part.

Formed in 1970, the Chicago Mural group grew out of the ferment created by a 1967 "Wall of Respect" made by black artists at 43rd Street and Langley Avenue. One of the participants was Bill Walker, and he became one of the founders of the Chicago Mural Group.

It was a time of great political and social turmoil in the nation, and the murals generally reflected social and political issues of interest to the local communities in Chicago. The members of the mural group were men and women of different ethnic groups, nationalities and religions, much like Hyde Park itself. Funds for the materials and stipends for the artists have come from many different sources, including local residents, businesses, organizations, the National Endowment for the Arts and the artists themselves.

While Yasko's mural was the impetus for the explosion of murals, Buffy Zellman painted "The Wall" on 53rd street and the underpass in 1971. It was later replaced by "The Circle Journey--a Continuous Cycle of Giving and Receiving."

In 1973, I put up "The Spirit of Hyde Park" on the approximately 2,100-square-foot south wall of the 57th Street-IC underpass. The design had previously been approved by nearby businesses and residents. I had the good fortune of having Bill Walker, seminal leader of the mural movement that swept across the nation, as my mentor. Also, 15 neighborhood children volunteered to help.

Under my direction, they did the entire next phase of putting in al the flat colors and working on the source of light. Public response to the mural was astonishing. A few people blasted it in the local newspaper as violent. Out of this came an outpouring of support from many quarters, including the media, tourists and Chicagoans. Len O'Connor, of Channel 7, described it as a "wall of hope that has tried to record the heartbeat of mankind in community."

That same year, Kathie Judge guided children in making in clay, "Beginnings: a Children's Creation Myth" at the First Unitarian Church. In 1974, school children painted "Seasons in the City," on the 51st Street underpass, under the direction of Nina Ward. It was replaced in 1989 by "Wheels of Time," done by children under the guidance of Barbara Westerfield. It commemorates the centennial of Hyde Park's annexation to the city of Chicago and concentrates on the Ferris Wheel of the 1893 World's Fair. For some years, a Girl Scout mural decorated the underpass beside Bret Harte School.

Murals by children have graced the inside and outside walls of schools. A variety of murals have also been done on the underpass leading to the Point.

In 1874, I painted "Rebirth" at 60th Street and Stony Island Avenue. Through animal imagery, it depicts the causes and results of social inequality in the Woodlawn community and points to a possible re-birth through the strength of its inhabitants. In honor of the International Women's Year, 1975, I painted "Women's Struggle", one of the earliest public recognitions of women, their experience and contributions. It stood at 56th Street and Lake Park avenue and was replaced in 1999 by "Where We Come From, Where We are Going" by Olivia Gude. This is an oral history of the community, with the answers of passersby to the questions and the passersby themselves depicted in mural form. Gude was unable to complete the mural because of work being done on the railway station, but plans to do so.

In 1976, I was measuring the 59th st. Underpass for a mural about Pioneer Social Work. What I did not know was that a few years before, Bill Walker had considered a mural there which was to feature portraits of University of Chicago Nobel Prize winners or international scholars. He was stopped by a nearby co-op resident, and I was, too. I agreed to meet with all the residents to hear their wishes.

The co-op member, in the meantime, called all the various Hyde Park organizations to get their help. Political and community leaders were supportive of me, and a larger meeting was arranged in the Unitarian Church, sponsored by the Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference. A straw poll was taken with 43-21 in favor of the mural going up. However, I was interested in obtaining an uncontested site, and painted it on the northeast wall of the 57th Street underpass, completing it in 1977. There was citywide positive interest in the mural, stimulated by media coverage.

Bill Walker painted "Justice Speaks: Delbert Tibbs/New Trial or Freedom" (1976) on the northwest side of the same underpass. This was in regard to a perceived injustice to a Chicagoan convicted of murder in Florida [ not the lynching of Chicago youth Dilbert Tibbs in another southern state in the 1950s]. Because of railroad station renovation, it no longer exists. In 1977, opposite Bret Harte School, Walker painted, "Children are the Future", a title later changed to "Childhood is without Prejudice."

In 1978, I painted "South Side Scene", opposite "Rebirth". It deals with racial inequality in the form of an imaginary ballet, in which some blacks and whites work against themselves and each other, and others use their strength to promote racial equality.

"No Fads or Frills" (1980) documents the history of the Chicago Public Schools an is painted on a wall opposite Kenwood Academy. The title refers to the phrase used in the early 1900s to do away with physical education, music, drama, art and foreign language in the service of preparing school children strictly for the workplace.

Graffiti writers, as artists working in the graffiti style prefer being called, have also added to Hyde Park walls, notably on the 47th street underpass. The north wall features "The Twelve Doorways of Perception", each depicting the spirituality of the individual artist. The south wall, "The Gallery of style", participated in yearly, by invitation only, showcases top graffiti writers. The decoration of both these walls was organized by Higher Gliffs, a national hip hop organization which began in Hyde Park in the 1990s.

The Chicago climate and the conditions of the walls have not been kind to the outside murals. They were left untouched by graffiti for many years until they began to physically deteriorate. Since that time, some well meaning individual(s) have painted out the graffiti with white paint. However, the Chicago Public Art Group, formerly the Chicago Mural Group, has been restoring some of the murals, and plans to restore others. The white paint makes this very difficult, and the director, Jon Pounds, asks that when graffiti is noticed, he be informed so the group can remove it with the least amount of damage.

Two murals on 56th

William Walker in 1977 painted "Childhood is Without Prejudice" at the east end of the 56th south viaduct wall. once Hyde Parker Walker was important in the Chicago mural movement. His daughter attended Bret Harte, catty corner from the mural. The mural has geometricized overlapping faces of different colors.

Olivia Gude painted her mural on the west walls an pillars several years later, in 1992 and is expected to redo her work, partly obscured and messed up by construction of a new station, in 2005. Consisting of full-sized portraits and texts of what these said in interviews, "Where We Come From...Where Are We Going," interprets responses on interviewees origins and prospects ranging from contentment, anticipation to pessimism and entrapment in moment to moment bustle.


Held October 1, 2004-October 31, 2004

Vespine Gallery located at 1907 S. Halsted, 1st Floor, Chicago,
Illinois, presents

The Hyde Park Viaduct Murals: Snapshots from 1988

Vespine Gallery presents The Hyde Park Viaduct Murals: Snapshots from 1988, by member artist Leah Mayers. The exhibition opens on October 1, 2004, and continues through October 31, 2004, with an opening reception for the artist on October 8, from 6 to 9 pm.
Gallery hours are: Monday through Thursday, by appointment only, 4-9 pm Fridays, and 10-4 Saturdays. Please call 312.962.5850 for more information.

The Hyde Park " Viaduct Murals: Snapshots from 1988" is an exhibit of a selection of photographs taken by Chicago book artist Leah Mayers of murals painted under the viaducts in Hyde Park between 1970 and 1980.

During the 1970s, on her way to and from elementary school, in Hyde Park, Mayers would pass the murals painted on the walls of the viaducts along Lake Park Avenue. During these walks, she would dream of being an artist and a writer. Marveling at how the murals combined an image and a message, Mayers loved how they were out on the street, and learned at a young age that art could be a political and public force.

The murals were painstakingly detailed and beautifully rendered, full of color and emotion, painted by leaders of the public art movement in Chicago and the country: William Walker, Caryl Yasko, Astrid Fuller, and Albert Zeno. They were big and public, like billboards, yet the viewer who stopped to study the image was rewarded with an intimate visual narrative of a particular time and place. Each told a story of politics, the environment, race relations, oppression, or social justice. Mayers loved these pictures in part because they were made by people from her community. The murals were part of her early belief that the world cared about art, and that artists cared about the world.

During the summer of 1988, Mayers watched most of the murals become obscured by the ravages of nature and teenagers with something to say and nowhere else to say it. That summer, she took about 50 photographs of most of the murals, just ahead of the panels of white paint that someone was using to cover the graffiti. Most of the murals, located under overpasses and along train tracks, have been painted over or defaced and are no longer visible.

About the project, Mayers says, “These murals were telling stories that needed to be told about the environment and human rights. These issues didn’t go away just because the oil paintings eroded. I feel that these beautiful pictures and their stories need to be seen and heard now as much as ever before.”

The Hyde Park Viaduct Murals: Snapshots from 1988 presents a small selection of these photographs, digitally printed from the negatives by Vespine friend Jennifer Keats, in hopes of preserving what has been lost.

The Hyde Park Viaduct Murals: Snapshots from 1988 is part of Chicago Artists’ Month, the ninth annual celebration of Chicago’s vibrant visual art community. This year’s theme, “Art Connects,” the ways that art and artists create powerful links with individual viewers and collectors as well as local and international communities.

For further information call 312.744.6630 or visit

Vespine Gallery, an East Pilsen, artist-run independent gallery,
provides intimate exhibition space for emerging artists.

photos available upon request

The following review of the exhibit, by Caitlin Devitt, appeared in the Oct. 13 Herald

Leah Mayers, who grew up in Hyde Park, first noticed the murals along the Lake Park Avenue viaducts as an elementary school student. She left the neighborhood for college, and when she returned in 1988 she realized the murals were starting to decay. So she began taking pictures of them. The result is The Hyde Park Viaduct Murals: Snapshots from 1988, at Vespine Gallery in Pilsen, 15 beautiful photographs that are part documentation, part interpretation of the Hyde Park roots of as national urban art movement.

Decaying, politically leftist and filed with images of racial and economic diversity, Mayers saw Hyde Park in the murals. "They visually describe the neighborhood," said Mayers. "They are very indicative of Hyde Park in the 70s."

Most of the murals were create in the early to mid-1970s, and are now more than three decades old. This too is a reflection of Hyde Park, where, Mayers jokes, "little has changed since the Big Change," referring to Urban Renewal.

By the time Mayers took the pictures, water from the viaducts--familiar to pedestrians who sidestep puddles and dodge drips--was taking its toll on the enormous viaduct paintings, which were created with oil paint. (Murals now are painted with acrylic, which holds up a little better to the environment.) Graffiti also began to deface the works, followed by large swaths of white paint, which Mayers believes is not the work of the city, but instead of a well-meaning citizen trying to cover the graffiti. But as she points out, graffiti's thin lines can be remove much more easily than three feet of white paint.

The mural's deterioration bring a poignancy to t he photographs, and is a reminder of the essence of murals as urban, democratic art that is, as Mayers says, transient in nature. There is also something powerful in the fading political messages, a reminder that the political messages themselves, reflected in their titles such as "Pioneer Social Work," Women's Struggle" and "Justice Speaks: Delbert Tibbs/New Trial or Freedom," are a product of a tumultuous political era that itself has faded during the last three decades.

The murals are familiar enough to walk past daily, but by putting them inn a gallery setting and taking particular care in the presentation, Mayers brings a fresh recognition of the beauty and the accomplishment the murals represent. Many of the artists who created the works are nationally known for their work. Astrid Fuller, who created five of the murals, still lives in Hyde Park, according to Mayers, who has researched the artist behind each mural.

Like the best kind of documentation, the photographs themselves are works of art, layered and original, depicting decay under the yellow lights of the viaduct, greasy cement, receding stairs, street signs, shadows.

The Lake Park Avenue murals that have survived are a distinctive part of the character of the neighborhood, and it is fortunate one native took the time to document the art and the politics behind the public art. The show is up through Oct. 31 [204] at the Vespine Gallery, 1907 S. Halsted St.




Metra tears down Lake Park Avenue stone walls

Hyde Park Herald. December 10, 2003. By Maurice Lee

Passers-by along Lake Park Avenue last week say a flurry of activity as Metra crews set to dismantling the crumbling flagstone wall running along the Hyde Park railroad embankment. The work is part of a Metra beautification project for the railroad embankment running from 47th Street to Hyde Park Boulevard.

Metra intends to remove the existing flagstone wall that runs along Lake Park Avenue and clear out much of the brush running up the slope of the embankment. Crews will then re grade the embankment at a gentler slope and landscape it with new trees and shrubs. Stones from the wall will be reused to build partial walls to provide shelter at bus stops along Lake Park Avenue, according to Metra Spokesman dan Schnolis.

Schnolis said Metra chose to remove the wall, which he said was "badly deteriorated" and has collapsed at points, instead of repairing due to the cost. "Replacing a wall of that nature is an extremely large undertaking and it would have require a significant amount of money to replace," said Schnolis.

Fourth Ward Alderman Toni Preckwinkle was pleased with the project, which has been on the table for several years now. "I'm very grateful that we are finally moving along on this project, which has been delayed for years," said Preckwinkle.

But not everyone is happy to see the wall come down. South Kenwood Resident Norah Erickson said she became aware of the deteriorated state of the wall a few months ago through a letter printed in the Herald ("Metra station a Mess," Aug. 20, 2003). Erickson said she wishes she had followed up that letter with one of her own and would have gladly offered her support to any fellow residents willing to take up the cause of saving the wall. But given the pace of the work on the project, she says she can't see how it could be stopped now.

"I would have been happy to [support] any effort to save the wall," said Erickson. "But seeing how fast they were working, I doubt very much you could stop [it]."

According to Schnolis, the project should be complete by the "end of the month." The project to knock down the wall was part of the long stalled and recently resumed Hyde Park Station Rehabilitation project but, according to Schnolis, was separated out when problems began to mount on the [Ed.-station] project. "Technically this is still part of the project, but officially now it's a separate project," said Schnolis.


Inventory of remaining wall sections. Hyde Park Historical Society Preservation Comm.

South from 47th. 95 ft 10-12 ft. high. Vertically true except out 8 ft. Needs tuck pointing but otherwise the most stable and least subject to water damage. Looked pristine until accidental paint over in September 2006. Different, and painted by youths and muralists from around city. Maintained by California Higher Gliphs Group under John Mulberry. South Side change, north side permanent.

North of building at 50th. 50 ft-4 ft high. Badly deteriorated with old repairs

South of building. 50 ft-4 ft high. Needs tuck pointing

South of 55th . 200 ft-6 ft high. Old repairs , vertically true except at 185 ft mark.

South of 55th continuing. 40 ft-6ft high. concrete. Fine

South of 55th continuing. 20 ft-6 ft high. Concrete. Deflected.

South of Historical Society. 275 fdt-6 ft high. Concrete. Fine

South of 56th t. c. 30 ft. Buried and being removed from Metra station construction. 6 ft high. Concrete faced with stone. Was fine.


Note bus stop middle right, slated for a partial shelter wall of former wall limestone. Top two pictures Hyde Park Herald, others Gary Ossewaarde. Ends with summer, 2004 north 49th.

Lake Park wall removal Lake Park wall removal
Lake Park wall removal Lake Park wall removal
Lake Park wall removal Lake Park wall removal
What's in place of the Lake Park Metra wall at 48th in 2004