Titled “The Story of
‘The Little School’ Under the ‘L,’” the project is the vision of DePaul art
instructor Bro. Mark Elder, C.M. It was designed to celebrate 120 years of achievement
and diversity at DePaul while also beautifying a much used but barren
“The big thing about
community supported public art is just that. It benefits the community, but in
ways both tangible and not,” said Elder. “The art will make the space look
nice, but the process also prompts a dialogue, the making of decisions to find
common ground. People get so excited when they’re doing something as one
unified community. There’s a natural, earnest bonding that occurs from
participation in and the making of community art.”
The extensive mural
will depict honorable alumni, notable milestones and significant historical
events from the university’s past. It utilizes 25 pillars under the platform by
dividing them into six groups of four, where each group represents a 20-year
span of history at DePaul. The remaining pillar will be reserved for
informational signage containing a QR code that, once more pillars are
completed, visitors can scan to receive additional information about the mural
and its subjects.
Four complete pillars
and the signage are on display under the ‘L,’ and Elder will be working with DePaul
students to complete four additional pillars every year. He hopes to turn the
mural into a service tradition. “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,” said Elder. “This was a good way to certainly take
advantage of that while creating a service tradition in that direction.”
Figures who are
currently represented include:
- Ray Meyer, the legendary DePaul men’s
- Benjamin Hooks, a civil rights activist
and first African-American criminal court judge in Tennessee history. He is a
1948 DePaul alumnus who won the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2008.
- Mabel “Dolly” Landry Staton, a track
Olympian and alumna.
- Minnie Daly, the first laywoman to
graduate from DePaul, with Sr. Mary Teresita Frawley, S.P., and Sr. Mary
Clemenza Leahy, B.V.M., the first two nuns to graduate in 1912.
Yet to come are
depictions of former DePaul men’s basketball star George “Mr. Basketball” Mikan, DePaul’s
first African-American graduate Rose Vaughn, the Sheffield Neighbor’s
Association, the “D-men” who gave rise to DePaul’s Blue Demon mascot, and the
student protests of 1968.
Each of the 25
pillars will eventually be transformed in some way to represent the school’s
past, but Elder says that the biggest milestones of contemporary times are
undecided. “I’ll probably have more open discussions with the community as to
how the themes of these days can be expressed, given how fluid current times can
be,” said Elder.
The project will take
a while to complete, but Elder has ensured the mural’s durability and longevity
by using polytab fabric, which is extremely resilient. Furthermore, because the
space under the ‘L’ is sheltered by the tracks overhead, it will be spared from
the worst of Chicago’s weather, he said.
A small dedication
ceremony will take place Oct. 15 near the pillars under the ‘L’ during DePaul’s
alumni weekend. Dolly Staton, the former Olympic athlete, will be in attendance
and provide remarks.
In the meantime, Elder
is simply happy to be working with students on such an important, practical
project. The mural will be a celebration of the school’s evolution since its
founding in 1898, and according to Elder, there’s a real interest in that
“The students working
on the mural have a real excitement and energy to them. They find this project to
be more than fascinating. They all want to know about the stories of the past,”
said Elder, and through this mural, those stories can be immortalized under the
Bro. Mark Elder, C.M.