Alderpeople Chris Taliaferro (29th) and Emma Mitts (37th) hope that by this fall, they’ll be unveiling a brand new mural for the viaduct directly east of the Central/Lake Green Line ‘L’ station. Taliaferro said recently that the new mural will likely be accompanied by other renovations to the viaduct. 

The two alderpeople agreed to pool their funding together to commission a new mural, as well as fix leaks, remove rust along the support beams, add LED lighting and repave the sidewalks and the street pavement. The new mural, which will be painted on both sides of the viaduct underpass, would cost $30,000, while the infrastructural rehab would cost at least another $90,000.   

Taliaferro said that he and Mitts will split the mural costs equally, but that they would need to discuss how they would split the rehab costs.   

During a Feb. 2 online community meeting, which was attended by eight people (not counting city employees and members of the media), several attendees urged the city to do even more, arguing that the Central/Lake ‘L’ station was overdue for a rehab and it made sense to tie those improvements into more comprehensive viaduct improvements. 

The station isn’t fully compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the residents argued that the station conditions push riders away. Taliaferro responded that, while he shared those concerns, he wanted to prioritize the long-discussed renovations of the Austin/Lake station renovations, arguing that accessibility improvements were more pressing given the station’s proximity to nearby senior housing developments. 

The existing mural, called “Toward the Bright Future,” was originally painted in 2007 by Austin youth under the direction of artist Rahmaan Barnes, also known as Statik, It covers both walls of the viaduct and features images of transportation and inspiring Black leaders. But the mural has deteriorated since then, especially on the east side.

Mitts wasn’t able to attend the Feb. 2 meeting, but she voiced her support for the project during the Jan. 25 meeting, 

“I’m glad to be able to partner with a colleague to my west, Ald. Taliaferro, on this very important project,” she said. “I think the artwork is going to do wonderful [things] for the neighborhood. Particularly in the times we’re going through now, it needs some life and I’m sure that, once we create this artwork, it’s going to do that and some more.”

During the Feb. 2 meeting, Taliaferro reiterated his earlier support.

“I believe in bringing artwork to my ward, because it starts conversations and gives us something to be proud about,” he said. “You can see a piece of art and everybody can have a different interception of it, and I love it.”

Community members at the Feb. 2 meeting expressed support for the refurbished mural project. Resident Maria Sorell said that she appreciates the fact that public art is free and available to everyone. 

“It’s something that everyone can see,” she said. “You don’t have to go to the museum, you don’t have to be in a private building.” 

Austin residents can share their priorities for the mural at  

Igor Studenkov is a winner of multiple Illinois Press Association awards for local government and business reporting. He has been contributing to Austin Weekly News since 2015. His work has also appeared...