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Burst of creativity: Chicago Avenue electric bus turnaround in Austin gets new artwork

“Sunburst” installation at the Chicago/Austin bus turnaround. Photo: CTA

April 2, the CTA announced that it was testing six electric buses on the #66 Chicago Avenue route. If they prove successful, the agency will authorize the production of another 17 electric buses. In addition to the e-buses producing fewer emissions, the CTA said the new vehicles will save the agency money on fuel and maintenance, while providing a smoother, quieter ride to passengers. When Streetsblog contributor Mia Park took a test ride last month, she and fellow passengers gave the bus trip high marks.

The #66 electric vehicles recharge at Navy Pier and the recently refurbished bus turnaround at Chicago and Austin avenues. Today Mayor Lori Lightfoot and the CTA unveiled a new public artwork at the latter. The piece, a $200,000 wall installation titled "Sunburst," is by Los Angeles-based artist Shinique Smith, who has also done works for New York's MTA and LA Metro. The price of the piece included artist fees and the costs of fabrication, shipping and installation, and a project contingency fund. The expenses were covered using Federal Transit Enhancement funds from the Federal Transit Administration.

"This artwork is more than just a decorative piece. It is a beacon of light that is reflective of the spirit and energy of our Austin community," said Mayor Lightfoot in a statement. Lightfoot Herald the installation as part of the city's INVEST South/West community development program. "Through our signature INVEST South/West initiative, we will be able to attract even more projects like these, which will help our city's South and West Sides heal and grow thanks to the power of art."

Photo: CTA
Photo: CTA
Photo: CTA

"Sunburst" is a painted aluminum sculpture created specifically for the bus turnaround. The city says the piece "is reflective of the radiating, bright energy at this well-traveled corner in all seasons," and also reflects the fact that the site is an electrical charging station.

Smith was one of almost 350 artists who responded to the CTA’s request for proposals for the site issued in 2015. The evaluation committee selected Smith "based on her artistic merit, qualifications, professional recognition and her written statement of interest," the city said.

The CTA, along with the Austin African American Business Networking Association, a "Corridor Manager" for Invest South/West, hosted a community meeting with Smith in December 2016 collect input, which was taken into consideration as the artist began brainstorming the artwork.

“It is my sincere hope that Sunburst will be a focal point and a talisman light for all who travel the Austin bus turnaround,” said  Smith in a statement.

Over the last decade, the CTA’s public art collection has nearly doubled to include over 70 permanent artworks across all eight rail lines and multiple bus facilities. This collection of public art includes mosaics, art glass, sculptures, and interactive installations. For more info on the CTA's art collection, visit

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