LAKEVIEW — Just north of the Belmont CTA stop on Wilton Avenue, an installation of brightly colored iron butterfly sculptures sits above baskets of flowers and greenery surrounding a “Love Lakeview” sign.
The CTA, in partnership with the Lakeview East Chamber of Commerce, put up the display to help ease the unattractiveness of its construction on the Red-Purple Bypass, an integral part of its Red and Purple Modernization project set to begin this fall.
It’s a splash of color and fun on an otherwise gray backdrop.
Kara Hanson, who lives on Wilton Avenue, loves the “beautiful” butterflies.
“They really brighten it up,” she said. “It’s just a lovely installation. And the flowers! I’m a huge lover of greenery, so any time anybody brings more flowers, more greenery, it just makes it better for everyone.”
Prior to the butterflies’ arrival, homes along the east side of Wilton had an unfavorable vista of old rail tracks and empty gravel lots, sectioned off by a chain link fence, after buildings were leveled in March to make way for bypass construction.
“The neighbors on Wilton really weren’t happy with the way the lots looked,” said Lakeview East Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Maureen Martino.
“The community said, ‘You know, we don’t want to look at construction sites; we want something that looks nice,’” said Tammy Chase, CTA’s director of communications and media relations for the Red and Purple Modernization project.
The CTA looked into a lot of different options to beautify the area but couldn’t do anything too lengthy or permanent, Chase said.
The CTA coordinated with the chamber and locals residents to come up with a plan “The decision came down to how can we decorate this?’ Chase said. “The Lakeview East Chamber of Commerce had these butterflies.”
Created by Indiana-based artist Edward Wedow, the butterflies were acquired by the chamber about nine years ago to use in its annual Lakeview East Festival of the Arts.
“We purchased the iron butterflies as sort of a symbol of our art show,” Martino said. The butterfly image has come to represent the festival, held annually the second weekend of September.
“It’s part of our logo; each year we have a different poster, but you will always see a butterfly to signify our art show,” Martino said.
The chamber lent the whimsical butterfly statues, as well as the “Love Lakeview” sign, to the CTA to decorate the Red-Purple Bypass construction site. Brightly colored flower arrangements were also planted in boxes along the fence. Formerly an eyesore, the area is now charming and welcoming. The community, according to Chase, has responded very positively to the display.
“The east side of Wilton has given us thank yous and positive comments,” she said. “They appreciate that we’ve listened to them and that we’re willing to go beyond our normal core business of providing transit, especially with years of construction ahead.”
One resident, however, is displeased with the installation. “I think the butterflies are an attempt to make it more beautiful, but they’re slightly gaudy,” said Anna Mancuso, whose house sits on east Wilton Avenue, facing the construction site. Mancuso said she and her husband asked the CTA to plant trees to block dust from construction and the sound of train traffic, which she says has heightened after the demolition of the homes across the street.
For the Mancusos, the construction has made the area far less homey. “We miss having a neighborhood,” she said. While she isn’t a fan of the butterflies, Mancuso does appreciate the CTA putting in floral arrangements. “The flowers are what’s beautiful,” she said. “I love the flowers.”
In addition to the Wilton work, the CTA has public art in more than 60 railway systems. “We always think to add new art to our stations,” she said. “It’s nothing to do with providing rail service, but everything to do with the community, to make it more attractive for people who ride and who live there.”
The CTA’s efforts haven’t gone unnoticed by Wilton Avenue resident Kara Hanson. “It’s lovely when someone takes the time and effort to put a little back into the neighborhood and make something that’s an eyesore look a little more beautiful,” she said.