Residents celebrated the second phase of the Neighborhood Connection Project
by SEAN KEENAHAN
Residents celebrated the second phase of the Neighborhood Connection Project to beautify the Metra underpass in Edgebrook with a rally on Aug. 26.
A group of residents has been working to create a mixed-media bricolage mural on the walls of the 450-foot Metra underpass since 2013. The east walls of the mural were completed during the first phase of the project last year, and the west walls were completed this summer.
Group founder Jac Charlier said that leaving the middle connecting walls of the underpass for the final phase of the project next year was a conscious decision.
"Next year we will connect the two east and west pieces together the way the American West used to connect railroads," Charlier said. "They would put a golden stake in the middle to recognize the railroad was attached, and we’re going to use a golden tile next year to connect the east and the west in that we are united."
The group was formed in March of 2010, when it began a 3-year process of repairing the underpass. It worked with community organizations and with the Green Star Movement and After School Matters, which has provided funding and 30 paid teen apprentices for each phase of the project.
"This is a way to provide an opportunity for young people to be artistic and productive simultaneously and leave a lasting mark here for the community," After School Matters North Region program specialist Sterling Goodrich said.
Young Magnet High School junior Tristan Schuerman has worked on both phases of the project through After School Matters. "It’s not just rocks on top of other rocks, it’s more of a community effort than anything, and I really think it’s phenomenal how we’ve all come together to work on this," Schuerman said.
"We invite people to be inspired by what they see here and look beyond the art that’s being done and realize how many people and how many organizations found a shared vision," Charlier said. "That’s the message and the theme of the NCP. It is citizen-led, it is building community. It just looks like a mural, but it’s not really, it’s joining people together."
The underpass features three-dimensional glass mosaics and painted murals with themes that reflect the history of the Edgebrook, Wildwood and North Edgebrook neighborhoods.
"Now that the rally of the second phase is over, people can see, touch and feel the art work," Charlier said. "We’re within $6,000 of our goal now, and I am very hopeful because I absolutely know for sure that we will be able to go into 2015 and finish this."
Information about the project can be obtained by sending an e-mail to Charlier at firstname.lastname@example.org.