Two students decided to take matters into their own hands last summer, when they noticed something anti-immigration graffiti scrawled on the Central Street viaduct.
Although the city painted over the graffiti, incoming seniors Jessica Baum and Olivia Chandrasekhar got to thinking about the blank concrete wall beneath the Metra tracks—and begain imagining what it would look like with a mural.
“We just decided to have at it,” says Baum.
The two talked to the mayor in April and presented their idea to the city’s human services committee for approval earlier this summer. They arranged for a permit from Metra to paint on the tracks, which are technically owned by the railroad. And they got in touch with the (Y.O.U.), where they found willing volunteer painters from the organization’s summer programs.
On a recent Friday, Baum, Chandrasekhar, and a group of students from Y.O.U. began taping the space and painting in the basic forms as a long blue rectangle took shape. In each window of the rectangle, designed to look like a Metra train, a student from Y.O.U. planned to paint his or her silhouette, with a few details—like a hat or earphones—added in color. Cutting through the image of the train are giant letters spelling “Evanston.”
Mark Augustine, a summer fellow at Y.O.U. and an instructor at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, explains how he designed the mural along with the students. Meeting in workshops throughout the summer, they discussed what it means to live in Evanston and what it means to be a young Evanstonian.
“Evanston as a place is symbolized by one train uniting everything together,” says Augustine. “The students are really excited to do this.”
Baum and Chandrasekhar say they hope this project spurs others like it in the future. Although they’re both headed to college next year, they want the program to continue.
“Evanston is home to a lot of murals…but we still feel like the city could reflect more its urban vitality through street art,” Chandrasekhar told the city council in August. “We’re overshadowed by Chicago sometimes.”