Austin residents voiced their concerns at a community forum meeting held earlier this month about moving forward with the mural project on the viaduct at Lake Street and Central Avenue. Some residents called for the viaduct walls to be repaired before the mural is placed, saying they showed signs of deterioration, with some parts of the wall falling off.
“Why are putting a Band-Aid on a gushing wound?” asked Austin resident Maria Sorrell.
Artist Rahmaan Statik, who created the mural currently on display at the viaduct, agreed with the residents and said the viaduct’s infrastructure needs to be repaired “sooner rather than later.” But if the infrastructure isn’t repaired before the new mural is installed, it will shine a light on the work that needs to be done, he said.
Austin residents also learned at the April 7 meeting how Statik creates a mural. He shared examples of his past work, such as “The Great Wall of Chicago” and “Better Together,” and explained how community members provided input to shape the mural.
“Right now, everyone’s ideas count, and I’m looking for the common denominator in your ideas,” he said.
The mural will have a new design that represents the Austin community.
Residents shared what kind of artwork they would like to see on the mural that is representative of their communities. Sorrell stressed the rich history of Austin, evident in the multiple historic landmark buildings in the community. Keli Steward said she would like to see “a beautiful representation of the people who live there.”
“We have families, we love … I think that a lot of the very human aspects of us are overlooked and pushed to the side for a different kind of narrative,” Steward said. “So any kind of representation of our, like, humanity.”
Repairs to the infrastructure of the viaduct, property of Chicago Transit Authority, would have to be completed before the mural installation begins in the summer. The CTA is responsible for completing and funding these repairs, said Byron Watson, the 29th Ward’s infrastructure director.
“I believe we need to figure out a way to get CTA to be able to do their part, to get that infrastructure fixed and updated,” Watson said.
If the infrastructure renovations are prioritized before starting the mural, the project would be further delayed, he said. Watson noted the mural project was selected in the 2017 participatory budget and was postponed until this year.
“Ald. Taliaferro and Ald. Mitts would definitely have to put the pressure on CTA to get this done if we want to keep this timeline,” Watson said.
Taking into consideration the input gathered at last week’s meeting, Statik will present a final design proposal in May and hopes to begin painting in June. The plan is to complete the artwork installation in September and unveil the mural in sometime in the fall.
Not all residents agree the mural project should move forward.
“If we’re gonna do a mural inclusive of our community, that’s something beautiful, and I don’t wanna see people and things crumbling,” Bertha Purnell said. “I think we should wait until they fix the area, and then we move forward with the mural.”