New artwork on the CTA bus facility on Chicago Avenue in Austin. (AUSTIN TALKS)

Mayor Lori Lightfoot last week unveiled a new work of art for a Chicago Transit Authority bus facility in Austin.

The CTA’s investment in the new artwork is part of a shared commitment to expand public art throughout Chicago, and also complements the mayor’s INVEST South/West initiative.  

“This artwork is more than just a decorative piece,” Lightfoot said in a statement. “It is a beacon of light that is reflective of the spirit and energy of our Austin community.

“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.” 

The artwork, titled Sunburst, was created by artist Shinique Smith, an internationally recognized visual artist whose work has been exhibited across the United States, and has produced commissions for New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority and the Los Angeles Metro.

Sunburst is a painted aluminum sculpture created specifically for the recently refurbished CTA bus turnaround at the corner of Chicago Avenue and Austin Boulevard.

The artwork is reflective of the radiating, bright energy at this well-traveled corner in all seasons. Symbolically, the artwork also highlights recent upgrades to the facility, which now serves as a charging depot for the CTA’s newest all-electric buses that were added as part of regular service in early April.

The bus turnaround includes an electric quick-charging station to support the CTA’s newest-generation electric buses that have been operating along the #66 Chicago bus route.

The artist, currently based in Los Angeles, is recognized internationally for her exuberant paintings and sculpture that celebrate the power of human expression and resilience.

Smith was one of nearly 350 artists who responded to CTA’s Call for Artists issued in 2015 for the bus turnaround. The evaluation committee selected Smith based on her artistic merit, qualifications, professional recognition and her written statement of interest.

The CTA, in partnership with the Austin African American Business Networking Association (AAABNA) — a corridor manager for Invest South/West — hosted a community meeting with the artist in December 2016 to solicit community feedback.

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

CTA President Dorval R. Carter Jr. added: “This artwork will help put the Austin neighborhood on the map as a destination within Chicago for seeing world-renowned artwork.”

Over the last decade, the CTA’s public art collection has nearly doubled to include more than 70 permanent works of art across all eight rail lines and multiple bus facilities. It includes mosaics, art glass, sculptures and interactive installations created by nationally and internationally acclaimed artists, many of whom are local.

The value of the new installation in Austin is $200,000, which includes artist fees and the costs of fabrication, shipping/delivery and a project contingency fund, was paid for using funds provided by the Federal Transit Administration.

For more details on these new installations, visit transitchicago.com/art.

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