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On April 27, City Council approved funding to build a sculpture on theCuster Street
bridge that crosses the Yellow Line CTA tracks. The steel structure will replace the bridge’s existing chain-link fence and create a luminous effect for passersby.
Using funds allocated from the Capital Improvement Program for Community Public Art, which grants funding for public art to wards that apply, the City agreed to pay $50,000 for the design, fabrication
and installation of the sculpture that is scheduled to be completed late this
The piece will be the newest work by Chicago artist James Brenner, whose industrial-steel artwork has been used in public spaces across the nation. The sculpture will consist of a framework of vertical steel slats; behind the slats, a lighted blue arch will run the length of the bridge.
From a distance, Mr. Brenner said, a viewer will see only a slight blue glow. At close proximity, however, the full blast of the light, which shines through ornately sculpted glass, will become visible. The light will appear to follow those in cars,
or just walking by.
The project was largely conceived by South Evanston resident Paul Sullivan, who discovered the grants while working on unrelated projects with Alderman Ann Rainey, Eighth Ward, and jumped at the opportunity to spruce up his neighborhood and create a “gateway” to Evanston.
“It [Custer Street
] is the corridor between Rogers Park and Evanston,” Mr. Sullivan said. “I wanted to make a statement. It’s a great neighborhood and I wanted people to know that.”
Beginning nearly a year and a half ago, Mr. Brenner and Mr. Sullivan began planning a piece that could replace the chain-link fence, which Mr. Sullivan believed marred the neighborhood’s aesthetic. Although the concept is unlike Mr. Brenner’s usual work, he tackled the project.
Considering the community around the bridge, Mr. Brenner chose to incorporate into the piece an arch – a shape, he said, that communicates “a connection between two sides and a symbol of cultural bonds.”
The sculpture will allow a view of the tracks and will stand as tall as the existing fence. Built from heavy-gauge steel and needing little maintenance (its lights will only need replacement every five years), the sculpture will soon be a permanent fixture of the eighth ward.
“I think it is great piece for the location,” said Jeff Cory, the City’s cultural art director. “I think it is going to be a real landmark for the neighborhood.”
Capital improvement grants have funded a total of six projects either completed or in progress. One, a sculpture by Evanston artist Indira Freitas Johnson, was recently erected onChicago Avenue
; a dedication ceremony will be held on Sunday at 3 p.m.
Other upcoming projects include a restoration of the mural “The Wall of Struggle and Dreams,” located in Clyde-Brummel Park, and another piece that will be installed on the Main Street CTA station’s west retaining wall later this year.
In a matter of days, Mr. Brenner will begin assembling the sculpture, which will be trucked to the location in over a dozen pieces. If everything goes according to schedule, said Brenner, the piece should be completed within three months.
Mr. Sullivan said the project has gone beyond visual improvements to the community to improvements in its ties and cooperation. “Everyone has been very supportive, not only in the neighborhood, but in the politics too,” he said. “Everyone has really come together to get this through.”