Photo Courtesy of NEIU
The Kimball Avenue and Kennedy Expressway underpass is nothing special. It is plain white with a smattering of graffiti, peeling paint and other signs of wear and tear. With the help of Northeastern Illinois University, this ordinary blank canvas that people pass every day is about to get a new makeover.
The Puerto Rican Arts Alliance and the National Museum of Mexican Art, both of whom could not be reached in time for print, are working along with NEIU to plan a public art project in the underpass near the El Centro campus located in the Avondale neighborhood.
The project is still in the planning stages with support from Alderman Rey Colon of the 35th Ward and State Senator Iris Martinez. Martinez has called for “community input on how this project can best reflect the unique character of Avondale through art.”
Community members and local organizations including the Avondale Neighborhood Association are also getting involved and contributing to the proposal. No designs have been revealed, but the artwork should “best reflect the Avondale neighborhood,” stated a NEIU press release.
Students and faculty are involved and could not be more excited. Mark McKernin, chair of NEIU’s art department, said, “The potential themes are culture and the working class. Of course community is important and it had to do with Avondale.” The history of the neighborhood is a heavily influences in the plan, bringing in the industrial aspect of the neighborhood’s legacy.
The underpass is not the only location in the beautification plan. Many other potential locations are being presented as well. There is a plan to create two murals underneath the Metra viaduct, one by the CTA Blue line stop nearby and one on two walls located on Avondale Avenue a few blocks away. McKernin said the project has multiple phases, and will be a long-term project with multiple locations. NEIU plans on maintaining the art for years to come.