Ainslie Street viaduct in Jefferson Park gets 2nd mural


A mural titled “Tree of Life” recently was painted on the south side of the railroad viaduct on Ainslie Street just west of the Kennedy Expressway, nearly 2 years after a science-themed mural was installed on the north side of the viaduct.

The new mural, which is 12 feet tall at its highest point and 109 feet long, features a woman’s head as a symbol for a tree with a series of colorful branches that represent different images to different passersby, according to the mural’s creator Jerry Rogowski. “It’s an abstract. It’s whatever people want to see,” he said.

Rogowski said that his intent was to design a mural that showed “the two worlds we live in.” He said that humans rely on nature for food and water but that they also have become so closely tied to their technology.

“At 6:30 a.m. everyone is on their cell phone, checking email, talking,” said Rogowki, who has worked on several other Northwest Side murals. Arts Alive Chicago members Cyd Smillie and Tony Passero assisted Rogowski with the tree mural.

Passsero said that typically public murals are not as abstract as “Tree of Life” but that it makes for a more interactive experience for passersby, as they may have a different interpretation of the mural each time they walk by.

Cell phones, computer parts and maps area neighborhoods and CTA subway stops are among the images which residents have said that the tree’s braches represent, according to Rogowski and Passero.

The mural on the north side of the viaduct is called “Re: Thinking.” There are about 30 public murals in and adjacent to the 45th Ward, and most of them have been installed in the past 4 years, according to Arts Alive.

The Ainslie viaduct is an ideal location for murals given the high number of residents from the homes to the east who walk under the viaduct to reach the Jefferson Park CTA Terminal, 4917 N. Milwaukee Ave., Smillie said. “It’s 24/7,” she said of the foot traffic.

The mural’s installation included weed and trash removal from around the viaduct, and several residents have commented on how the area looks cleaner, Passero said.