Indira Johnson shut her eyes and smiled as she recalled describing her vision for the perfect Red Line station mural: Something vibrant. Something inclusive of everyone frequenting the station. Something to anticipate when emerging from the stairwell.
Little did she know during a contest a year ago that such a mural — her creation — would be the first-ever art installation at the Red Line’s Cermak-Chinatown station.
“I visited the station multiple times and spoke to the people, the ticket collectors,” she said, standing next to a poster board rendering of her artwork, a fusion of Chinese, African-American and Mexican influences. “And I realized that even though this station opens into Chinatown, it’s only a gateway to a much larger community of different cultures.”
The CTA unveiled renderings of original artwork installations for eight of the Red Line’s south branch stations Monday at the DuSable Museum. The artwork serves as the final piece of the $425 million Red Line South reconstruction project, which began in May 2013. The project restored the 10.2-mile stretch of track from Cermak-Chinatown to 95th Street.
Separate art installations are planned for 95th Street Station, which will undergo its own $240 million renovation.
The CTA selected nine artists’ renderings from more than 300 selections to adorn the Sox-35th, 47th, Garfield, 63rd, 69th, 79th, 87th and Cermak-Chinatown stations. The nine artists are Johnson, Paula Henderson, Andrew Hall, Cecil McDonald, Jr., Emmanuel Pratt, Olalekan Jeyifous, Douglas Fogelson, McArthur Binion and Thomas Lucas. All are from the Chicago area except for Jeyifous, who’s from Brooklyn, N.Y.
Installation of the artwork is scheduled to begin anywhere from late 2014 to early 2015, said Tammy Chase, CTA spokesperson. The $590,400 project is to be paid for by the Federal Transit Administration. The cost includes insurance, shipping and delivery fees, she said. While all stations but Cermak-Chinatown already had paintings and murals, Chase said it’s important for each station to experience some form of visual revival.
“Each piece of artwork really incorporates the flavor of the community,” she said.
Andrew Hall, the artist chosen for the 47th Street station, used several mediums for his piece, ranging from pen-and-ink to graphite to colored pencil. He used a series of collages to capture both the backyards of Bronzeville residents and the neighborhood’s rich African-American history. Intricate colored pencil portraits of historic figures, such as Muddy Waters, emerge to the forefront of the work.
For him, having his art displayed at a Red Line station is the greatest honor.
“It feels great,” he said. “I’ve always wanted people to see my work, and see me as a person.”