The Public Art of Chicago's Transit Stations

Touring Chicago on the CTA's "L" transit system? Don't miss the public art installations that grace train stations along the routes.

The Windy City is full of nationally acclaimed art galleries and museums, and the public art of Chicago is equally impressive. You’ve probably heard of the Chicago art installations like Cloud Gate, Crown Fountain and Agora at Millennium Park (all are worth visiting, and Cloud Gate is almost a mandatory selfie photo), but the city has many other less visible public artwork on display, including the art at transit stations on Chicago's public transit “L” train system. (The "L" stands for "elevated.")

Chicago is a city in which both residents and visitors rely heavily on the train system, and the city sought to make the travel experience a more beautiful and enjoyable one. For a culturally exciting and free thing to do in the city, just hop aboard the transit authority to see stunning Chicago public art in this unexpected gallery. Odds are you’ll already be on the train as you see Chicago, so don’t miss out on these impressive artworks as you change trains and explore the city.

While commissioning art for the train stations began in 1974, it really didn’t get started until the early 2000s when the Chicago Transit Authority and the City of Chicago Public Art Program installed nine permanent works of art at eight renovated rail stations. Over the next 10 years the CTA has added more than 40 pieces at over 40 stations. This collection now includes a variety of mosaics, sculptures and paintings. Todd Winters, a photographer and videographer, documented the artwork for Where in 2014, and his shots were used for the above video mini-documentary on the CTA art project.

The Must-See Art of Chicago's L Train System

"Hopes and Dreams" by Juan Angel Chavez and Corinne Peterson—This mosaic is largely composed of tiles created by adults and children during weekend workshops at the Field Museum in the summer of 1999. Its bright tiles featuring lots of blues, yellows and greens, illuminates the Roosevelt station, making the stop a special spot in the city.

"Reflections Expressions Transformations" by B.J. Krivanek and Joel Breaux—Each panel of this kinetic art installation at Chicago station pivots independently, allowing the artwork to constantly shift and change, like the surrounding streetscape, in response to wind currents and the vibrations of passing trains.

"Transitions" by Barbara Cooper—This sculpture accompanies a mosaic and is suspended to form an artistic dialogue between the two pieces. Found at the Paulina station as well, this sculpture of riveted brass and stainless-steel sheeting is certainly eye-catching.

"We All Ride the Train Together" by David Lee Csicsko—This mosaic at Chicago’s Belmont station celebrates the diversity of the Lakeview community. The mosaic is set on a wall near the stairs depicts the diverse and distinct faces aboard the train. With green, pink, purple, blue and yellow eyes, the characters riding the train brighten up the station with a touch of whimsy. Train-riding travlers will find Csicsko's mosaic eyes in various places at this stop, bringing a happy and lively feel to the train station.

Find out more about every piece of art at Chicago Transit Authority’s website.