A multi-year public art project to memorialize key figures in DePaul's history now includes four new murals on the pillars under the Chicago Transit Authority's Fullerton 'L' station. In the center of the university's Lincoln Park Campus, the murals honor a legendary president, a pair of student pioneers, the origin of the university's nickname, and a key local relationship within the Lincoln Park community.
The project, "The Story of 'The Little School Under the 'L' - Under the 'L,'" began in 2016 and is the vision of muralist Brother Mark Elder, C.M., an adjunct faculty member in the art, media and design program.
"The big thing about community supported public art is just that: It benefits the community, but in ways both tangible and not," Elder says. "The art will make the space look nice, but the process also prompts a dialogue that helps find common ground. People get so excited when they are doing something as one unified community. There's a natural, earnest bonding that occurs from participation in and the making of community art."
The new murals honor:
- Rev. Francis Xavier McCabe, C.M., DePaul's third president. McCabe admitted female students to the university for the first time and played a key role in keeping DePaul open during World War I.
- Marion Amoureux and Rose Vaughan, believed to be the first two African-American graduates from DePaul in 1943 and 1944, respectively.
- Joe Wilhoit, a multi-sport star at DePaul, who went on to become the university's first Major League Baseball player. He was part of the DePaul football team that earned the nickname "D-Men," which eventually led to the current nickname "Blue Demons."
- The Sheffield Neighborhood Association, a local organization started in 1959 - and still active today - that helped improve living conditions for DePaul students in the Lincoln Park neighborhood.
These new murals join four inaugural murals installed in 2016 to honor former men's basketball coach Ray Meyer; DePaul law alumnus Benjamin Hooks; Olympian Mabel "Dolly" Landry Staton; and DePaul's first female graduates, Minnie Daly, Sister Mary Teresita Frawley, S.P., and Sister Mary Clemenza Leahy, B.V.M.
"We should recognize how diversity became a value for us here at DePaul," Elder says. "From the first Jewish students in the early days of the university, to women attending in 1911 and African-American graduates in 1943 and 1944, these murals are a positive way to remember some of the key moments in our history that speak to the mission of the university."
Elder's process from ideation to installation can take as long as 10 months. He finalizes the mural concepts in late fall, lays out and draws the murals during the winter, and works with a mural class of DePaul art students in the spring to paint the murals and prepare them to be moved under the 'L' tracks. A small group of students then joins Elder each summer for installation, where their hands-on work includes some final painting, preparing the canvases and laying the murals carefully onto the pillars for drying.
"I'm always looking for opportunities to not just teach students about the making of public art, but to get them involved in the actual making," Elder says. "This was a good way to certainly take advantage of that while creating a service tradition in that direction."
In total, Elder will install 25 murals, 24 to highlight DePaul's history and a 25th - which is already installed - that gives an artistic overview of the project. Elder's plan includes adding four murals a year for four more years to finish the project. Each row of murals represents a different 20-year period in DePaul's history, starting from the school's founding in 1898 on the pillars closest to Belden Avenue and moving north toward Fullerton Avenue.
Additional murals in the coming years plan to feature former DePaul men's basketball star George Mikan, a 1959 Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame inductee; the 50-year anniversary of the Black Student Union forming in 1968 and the student protests of 1969; and the emergence of DePaul's Loop Campus.
A dedication for the newest murals is set for 2 p.m. Oct. 13 under the Fullerton 'L' stop on DePaul's Lincoln Park Campus. The event is free and open to the DePaul community and the public.