Metra through a streamlined Community Enhancement Program is hoping to instill a stronger sense of community in residents by hanging portraits of the people that actually live in the community of the train stations. The first artwork to be installed in Metra stations under the program were hung earlier this month at the 87th and 93rd Street stations along the South Chicago branch of the Metra Electric Line. They feature portraits of residents of the South Chicago neighborhood and were created with the assistance of people who also live in the neighborhood.
“This is precisely the kind of artwork that we were hoping for when we upgraded our program earlier this year – something that would help foster a strong sense of pride and ownership in this community,” said Metra Executive Director/CEO Don Orseno. “We will be enhancing stations in a historic Chicago neighborhood using portraits of people who live in the community that were done with the help of local artists.”
The enhancement project was pitched to Metra by archi-treasures, a nonprofit organization that combines the arts and community development to improve Chicago neighborhoods by involving people in projects that transform public space and increase civic engagement. Creative professionals and community members partner to improve neighborhoods while strengthening social bonds.
This year, the organization piloted a new program model at Germano Millgate Apartments, a subsidized housing complex in South Chicago with more than 300 units. Residents collaborated with Chiara Galimberti, an Italian artist, to create 22 portraits of people who live in South Chicago. One portrait will be hung at the 87th Street Station and a second will be hung at the 93rd Street Station. The portraits will be accompanied by an informational plaque describing the project and referring interested viewers to a website for more information.
“I am excited to have an art installation of portraits showcasing the strong, vibrant people of South Chicago at the Metra stations on 87th Street and 93rd Street,” said 10th Ward Alderwoman Sue Sadlowski Garza. “It is a testament to the work of archi-treasures and the youth artists of Germano Millgate as they honor our constituents to commuters from Chicago as well as Indiana. An art installation at these particular train stops will instill pride in our neighbors that the 10th Ward matters to the region!”
“The goal of this project is to represent the people who live at Germano Millgate Apartments by broadcasting their portraits publicly and telling their stories, thereby challenging a dominant narrative about low-income housing that is largely inaccurate as well as humiliating to residents,” said Joyce Fernandes, executive director of archi-treasures. “These portraits are part of archi-treasures’ Front Porch Project, which creatively examines the front porch as a place of neighborly exchange that marks the border between private/family space and public/community space.”
This past September, Metra streamlined its Community Enhancement Program by outlining specific activities in which community groups can engage, providing an online application form and offering detailed selection criteria to help guide proposals. Partners must be willing and able to fund their projects, although, in some cases, Metra may be able to contribute some materials or workforce support to make them more lasting and safe.
Program activities can include: art projects that reflect the unique characteristics of the local community, including murals on or adjacent to facilities; free-standing sculptures, mosaics and photographs; painting and beautification of public areas, including viaducts, columns and bridge walls; and installation and maintenance of plants, shrubs, flowers and other landscaping enhancements.
Partners and projects are selected based on the following criteria: artistic quality of the proposed enhancement; appropriateness of the proposed enhancement to the site; permanence, durability, maintainability and use of high-quality materials; absence of hazards to the public; and recommended measures to protect against vandalism.
To submit a partnership proposal, please visit metrarail.com. For further information regarding Metra’s Community Enhancement Program, please contact Community Affairs at 312-322-6753 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.