Associate Professor of Art and Art History and Co-Director of Academic Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Folayemi Wilson was chosen to create the art for the new West Side CTA Damen Green Line stop, to be completed in 2021.
Wilson is a local artist, designer, educator, independent curator and writer. She joined the college in 2011 and since then has been awarded residencies and fellowships at Anderson Ranch Arts Center, Djerassi Resident Artist program, Haystack Mountain Center for Craft and Purchase College/SUNY Purchase New York, along with a number of other accredited awards and accomplishments.
She spoke with The Chronicle about her latest project and discussed how she was chosen, what inspires her and creating art on the West Side for the first time.
THE CHRONICLE: How were you chosen to create the art for the new station?
Wilson: I was invited, and several other artists were invited. I made a proposal to the CTA and the public art folks at the Cultural Center and you would have to ask them why they chose me, but they chose me.
What do you plan the art for the station to look like?
The [work will be] tiles … it is outdoors so it is meant to last for a very long time. [The station] is a modern transportation hub so I am going to use historical and contemporary images, but it will have a modern feel.
I am just starting the process, I tend to do research first before I decide on what I am going to do so that I’ve got something to base my work on.
What will be the focus of your artwork?
Since it is on the West Side, I am looking at three different themes. I don’t know where the work will end up but my research has to do with ethnic and cultural and different people that inhabited the West Side overtime. I am looking at industry and business that have been on the West Side and also the architecture of that area over time historically.
How did you choose specific themes for the artwork?
The station is situated in the West Side so it just seemed to make sense to me to illuminate the history since there was a station there at one time; it got torn down. It seemed important to highlight the neighborhood itself since so much changed and transitioned … so many different people have inhabited it over time. It just made sense to me to focus on that area.
Where are you getting your inspiration for the artwork from?
My process comes from actually doing historical research on the area. I have hired a photo researcher to help me get some historical and contemporary images of the area. It is going to be a collage form.
Have you personally seen artwork like this on the West Side before?
I live on the far South Side, so I can’t say I know all that much about the landscape. I haven’t been in Chicago that long, so it is great for me to learn about the history of another area in Chicago I am not all that familiar with.
Why is it important for you to be able to create the artwork for the new station?
It is something that is going to be there for a long time, so it is an honor to be able contribute to the city I live in.