A photo of the panels with rust. | Courtesy Sally Cody

A rust stained, unsightly cement wall on the Circle Avenue Bridge will be transformed this Saturday into public art as part of a project called “Cover Our Rust.”

A public works crew from the village power-washed and sealed the rust-stained walls of the bridge to prepare it for the 10-foot-by-26-inch spaces, which will be used as “canvases” for local artists. They also painted the chain link fencing above the walls black to prevent future rust from staining the creations.

Groups sponsoring each of the 114 spaces on the wall paid $30, most of which was underwritten by local businesses, who will be recognized on a separate space but will not be allowed to have their names on the art itself. Businesses contributed donations ranging from $50 to $500.

The project is the brainchild of Sally Cody, the village’s executive secretary and deputy village clerk. A Feb. 7 Review article outlines how Cody’s idea evolved from her imagination into Saturday’s creative event. In case of rain the “birthing” will be postponed until the following Saturday, May 20.

Beginning at 8 a.m., members of Cody’s team will hand out 800 paint brushes and pour 100 gallons of paint into 16 oz. cups. For the sake of consistency and to tie the over 100 segments together, the committee predetermined the palette of colors to be used: muted red, blue, green, yellow, brown, white and charcoal. 

“There won’t be any shocking colors,” said Cody. Each artist will receive seven brushes along with seven cups of paint.

Cody noted that Cover Our Rust is public art in two ways. First, it’s not housed in a gallery but very visible to folks using the Blue Line and motorists crossing the bridge. Second, it’s art that will be created by the “public.” She emphasized that it will cost taxpayers “zero” dollars. It’s all funded by local businesses and being done through local organizations and by local artists.

Local businesses include Ed’s Way, Farmington Foods, Fantastic Sams, Ferrara Candy, Remax in the Village, Brown Cow, Suite Spotte, Accents by Fred, Exit Strategy, Echo Theater, Starship Subs, Shanahan’s, and the Forest Park Review.

Blue Max will be donating coffee and scones and a lunch of hot dogs and chips from Smoky Joel’s Red Hots will be provided.

The newly created Diversity Commission is sponsoring one section, which is being paid for by Commissioner Tom Mannix, and is being painted by local artist Kathy Kucia. 

“We’ve given what we have dubbed the ‘sweet spot’ directly across from the CTA entrance to the Diversity Commission,” Cody said, “which has a full 40 feet for their display.”

Also sponsoring sections on the wall are organizations like Kiwanis, the Historical Society, St. Bernardine’s Youth Group, Cub Scout Pack 109, Crossroads Berwyn, L’Arche Chicago and Forest Park Little League.

An email from forestparkarts.com stated, “Cover Our Rust will bring together artists, civic organizations, nonprofits, religious entities, families, educational institutions, local government, and others, in creating a community-oriented unique piece of artwork along both sides of the Circle Avenue Bridge. … This project will serve to bring the community together in a fun and creative initiative while beautifying the bridge.”

The ad hoc teams that helped Cody organize Cover Our Rust included artists Lin Beribak and Jessica Luciano, Karen Rozmus who heads up the Oak Park Public Art Project, Commissioner Rachell Entler who took care of maintenance required on the fence and wall, Scott Watson who came up with the name “Cover Our Rust,” and Forest Park art lovers Michelle Fitzhenry, Alicia Hammond, Andrea Kuehn, Rick Wagner, Margie Wilkinson and Laura Twining.

An unintended consequence of the energy created by this project is the birth of a new organization in town which is calling itself the Forest Park Arts Alliance. 

“As a result of our first meeting,” Cody explained, “the members of our planning teams spontaneously expressed their desire to start our own arts alliance. Cover Our Rust will be our first project, which we are doing in cooperation with the village, but after that our attorney is working on the documents for us to be a 501c3 nonprofit doing its own thing completely apart from the village.”

Cody said the tremendous response she received from putting the word out about her idea through fliers and social media revealed that many Forest Park residents had also noticed the dearth of public art in the village. 

Back in February, she was concerned that her team would not get enough applicants. She need not have worried. 

“We got great feedback,” she said, “and we now have a waiting list of people who want to get in on Cover Our Rust.”

The artists will have to work fast on Saturday because they will only have from 8 a.m. till dusk to complete their creations.

Cody said she is not an artist herself but more of an art lover and an interior decorator in her own home.

“If I had to do it over again,” she noted, “I might consider going to art school.”

The bridge, of course, will be closed to motor vehicle traffic during the event.

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