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Colorful new art installations have arrived at the Montrose Blue, Diversey Brown stops

3:06 PM CDT on September 2, 2020

Mathew Wilson’s “Ordinary Relic” installation, including yellow-painted ‘L’ tracks and pillars. Photo: CTA

Ridership on the 'L' is still way down during the pandemic. But, on the bright side, a couple of CTA rail stations just got colorful, thought-provoking new public art that will make the commute more interesting for those who do ride.

The transit agency announced today that the Montrose Blue Line and Diversey Brown Line stops recently got art installations, expanding the CTA’s collection of public art, which has nearly doubled over the last ten years to include more than 70 permanent works of art. “These new installations add to the vibrancy and intrigue of CTA’s distinguished and growing public art program,” said agency president Dorval R. Carter, Jr. in a statement. “Not only do these two pieces add beauty to their respective stations and the communities they serve, they also highlight both historic moments and elements of our local culture that would otherwise be forgotten or remain unknown.“

Montrose Blue Line 

Inspired by "the world of colorful toys and vintage Americana," Chicago-based artist Chris Cosnowski was picked by the CTA to create a series of illustrated glass panels title "Windy City Odyssey" on the north end of the stationhouse. the panels depicting various toys and trophies representing different aspects of Chicago history and culture. The bodybuilder trophy, for example, is supposed to refer to Chicago’s nickname as “The City of Big Shoulders,” while the toy cow represents Mrs. O'Leary's cow and the Great Chicago Fire.

Photo: CTA
Photo: CTA
Photo: CTA

A penny is a shoutout to Abraham Lincoln, and a red-and-white tugboat is intended to represents the importance of Lake Michigan and the Chicago River to our city. Other images depict Bozo the Clown, whose show was produced locally, Sue the Tyrannosaurus Rex from the Field Museum, and the iconic red lips of the sign for the Magikist rug cleaning company, which used to stand by the side of the Kennedy Expressway at Montrose.

Diversey Brown Line 

While "Windy City Odyssey" isn't hard to interpret, the installation at the Diversey stop is more of a head-scratcher. "Ordinary Relic" by local artist Mathew Wilson. The project included the repainting of the 'L' tracks and pillars that straddle Diversey Parkway bright yellow. Along both platforms are six panels with the words “MEMORY” and “HISTORY” that lead toward the north stairway of the auxiliary exit. Installed outside the auxiliary exit at ground-level is a bright yellow and blue replica of the old-timey ticket agent’s booth from the adjacent historic stationhouse. Embossed in the pedestal are 10 important dates from Chicago history.

Diversey_Brown - Ordinary Relic element
Photo: CTA
Photo: CTA

According to the CTA, the installation is intended to "inspire the daily act of seeing and holding history in the collective memory." Wilson, said he hopes hope that the various art pieces throughout the Diversey station "will inspire travelers to celebrate the forgotten history of the city and recognize the importance of the past in creating Chicago’s contemporary cultural landscape." At any rate, the cheerful yellow and blue colors help brighten up the station.

Photo: CTA
Photo: CTA
Photo: CTA

The CTA issued a call for artists in December 2015 for the Diversey project and in January 2017 for the Montrose project. Chosen from a field of several dozen artists, both Cosnowski and Wilson were selected by an evaluation committee based on their artistic merit, qualifications, professional recognition and their written statements of interest, the agency said. The two installations cost a total of $200,000, which was bankrolled with Federal Transit Enhancement funds from the Federal Transit Administration.

Learn more about the sculptures here.

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