Garfield Park Conservatory Mosaics

Title:  Garfield Park Conservatory Mosaics

Site:  Garfield Park Conservatory
Central Park and Lake Street, Chicago

Artists:  Carolyn Elaine, 2002 and 2003, and Salim Hurtado and Michael Cloud, 2001
Nina Smoot-Cain, 2004

Assisting Artists: Ingrid Swenson, 2002

Community Participants: Neighborhood Youths

Sponsors:  Chicago Public Art Group, Garfield Park Conservatory Alliance, and Gallery 37

Year:  2001-2003

Scale:  Variable – Mosaic elements mounted on the infrastructure of the CTA tracks and station

Materials:  Broken ceramic mosaic

Information:  In 2001, CPAG began a multi-year project with Gallery 37 apprentices and the Garfield Park Conservatory Alliance to create and install a series of broken tile mosaics on the concrete bases of the train station at Central Park and Lake. The colorful mosaics were designed to attract the attention of motorists and pedestrians and to highlight local cultural and environmental themes, enhancing viewers’ appreciation of the el stop, the conservatory, and the community.

In 2001, Michael Cloud and Salim Hurtado led 14 west-side youths in the creation of artworks depicting park-related recreational activities. In the six-week program, students learned the basics of mosaic work, developed concepts for images, completed designs, and then created the mosaics. Panels were installed around the foundation of one of the station’s two elevator towers, while six smaller individual mosaics were set in the bases of the pylons supporting the tracks and station.

In 2002 and 2003, Carolyn Elaine and assistant Ingrid Swenson led 11 west-side teens on The Chihuly Remix, mosaics whose imagery was inspired by the conservatory’s flora as well as the Tacoma-based artist’s glass pieces. The team adorned the other elevator foundation with 40 square feet of mosaic, and added 12 more panels to the post bases.

“The guys were reluctant to do flowers, but once they got into the technical part of it, they did some of the very best ones,” says Elaine. “When they started taking part in something that’s going to be in their community for years and years, the kids got real puffed up about it and started taking ownership.”