A dozen or so Forest Parkers are organizing an artistic facelift of the Circle Avenue bridge spanning the I-290 expressway.
The public art installation is the brainchild of Sally Cody, the village’s executive secretary, and will bring together local artists, businesses and organizations. The idea, Cody said, is to spruce up the bridge’s inner-facing concrete walls, giving pedestrians and car traffic a better view.
“I drive over the Circle bridge every day and it’s hideous to look at,” Cody said. “It continues to look unsightly. I thought it’d be great to have some public art.”
Cody had been thinking about the idea for a few years and reached out to Public Property Commissioner Rachell Entler soon after Entler’s election in 2015. The bridge is near a few parks and a CTA Blue Line stop.
“The project provides the community with a way to come together to work on something that will benefit the entire village,” Entler said in an email to the Review. “It also incorporates public art, something we do not have very much of in Forest Park.”
“It gets a lot of foot traffic,” Cody said of the bridge. “It’s really the heart of Forest Park.”
Each applicant is required to pay a $30 entrance fee which will cover the cost of paint and supplies and every submission must include a rough sketch of the proposed idea. There are about a hundred 10- by 2.5-foot spaces available and spots are on a first-come, first-serve basis. Organizers do have veto power on designs, Cody said.
“We want to stay away from anything that’s too political,” Cody said. “We want to make sure we are not offending anyone.”
Organizers are also hoping to avoid overt business advertising on the bridge, but Cody did encourage local businesses to participate.
The May art project is not the only planned renovation in that part of town. The Park District of Forest Park is in the process of renovating the old Roos factory property, at the northwest corner of Circle Avenue and Harrison Street, abutting the bridge. But, the two projects are unrelated, Cody said. Entler concurred, writing in her email that there is no formal relationship between the Roos site and the bridge. But it did factor into her support.
“The proximity of the bridge to The Park and the Roos property definitely weighed heavily in my decision to support the project,” Entler said in an email. “I knew the bridge would have a large impact on the Roos property plans so it made sense to support a project that would help beautify the area.”
Organizers are working to promote the project, and Cody said getting 100 participants may be a challenge.
A few of the organizers are also involved with the Forest Park Arts Alliance, a newly formed collective working to promote art throughout the community. But Cody said the Circle Avenue project is independent of that group.
“This project came first,” Cody said. “The idea for the alliance came after.”
The one-day public art event is scheduled for May 13, with organizers accepting applications, which can be found on the village’s website, through mid-March.