Sometimes, mosaics are magic. Sometimes, there seems to be some sort of higher-power-harmonic-convergence-alignment-of-the-planets that puts the right people with the right sensibilities to work on the right design in the right space and — Presto! A mundane daily experience is turned into a thing of beauty and whimsy.
This is the story of a very magical mosaic. This is Train in the Belmont Station of the Chicago Transit System, the collaboration of artist David Lee Csicsko, mosaicist/fabricator/tile goddess Erin Adams and a merry band of installers and technicians.
Check out this video. For our Facebook Fans: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JDZ7tDMbpqM
Do you see the magic? Do you see how every single person in these two videos is smiling? Do you see the energy and the engagement in everyone from the artist to the installers, Brian and Juan? Even the videos were produced with love by one of Csicsko’s best friends, George Nakano.
We wanted details, so we contacted Csicsko. He was just what we expected. Enthusiastic. Inclusive. And downright delightful. Here are some of the things we learned:
Csicsko set out to accomplish accomplish many things with this work, the two most important being to: 1) reflect and do honor to the diversity of the neighborhood and 2) create something that would make people happy. He is heavily influenced by Pre-Columbian, early Japanese, Korean and African art as well as (you guessed it) Japanese anime and (you guessed it) Disney’s “It’s a Small World” designed by Mary Blair. He also confesses a love for the old train stations of London and their “ornamental whimsy.”
Thoughtfulness and creativity went in the design. An example — “I wanted to show diversity,” Csicsko told MAN, “but how do you make sure that you are inclusive of everyone? I decided that I would show diversity with color and pattern instead of physical features. And you know what? It’s working! People see themselves everywhere. ”
And yes, it is technically superb as well. Csicsko is no stranger to installing large mosaics in public spaces having completed, among other commissioned works, several 90 foot long mosaics for a hospital.
and Jessica Bussetti in the Erin Adams Studio, Albuquerque NM
Csicsko had worked with Ms. Adams on large glass mosaics before, so their working relationship was well-established. They are both deeply committed to the well-being of their respective communities. For all of her glass mosaic fabrication, Adams collaborates with Southwest Creation Collaborative (SCC), a contract manufacturing business that provides Spanish speaking women with a living wage and skills they can use to create good lives for themselves and their families.
When Csicsko was asked to stretch his budget to include a series of columns in the station, he turned to Ms. Adams. They determined that if they kept the designs for the columns simple and primarily background, the majority of the work could be done at SCC. A perfect solution. Budget stretched. Art maxed. Women employed.
This whole project seems to have worked like that.
Want further proof that these mosaics are magic? Well . . . there’s this Facebook Group called “Rub The Eye for Luck”
“The Goal of this group is a movement to generate not only a state of mind, but to also come up with unique ways to encourage folks in Chicago and ALL around the world to pay it forward. The concept all starts with a quick rub of the eye for luck; a tradition we are hoping Chicagoans will do as they pass through the Belmont Red Line Station.”
Csicsko says, “I don’t even know this person. He just called me up and asked me if it was okay.” They have even produced a video of their own. Count the smiles. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=60mZubfg_IA
Again with the synergy, already.
Graphic designer Jason Pickleman, whose work can be seen in Chicago’s Montrose Station, recently wrote this to Csicsko:
“I wanted to take a moment out of my day to tell you, quite sincerely, how amazing the Belmont Station art work is. Walking through the station, or driving by, brings such a huge smile to my face. And I’m sure I’m not alone. Of all the art at the many new Brown Line stations, yours is the finest. An extraordinary emblem for what contemporary art in an urban context can, and should, be. Just as when I am down in the NYC subway marveling over some of the exquisite tile work of 80+ years ago thinking, “wow, this stuff is amazing…”, so to years from now, when you and I are, well, gone, some anonymous kid is going to be walking down Belmont saying, again, “wow, this stuff is amazing.”
And that’s why the word “legacy” was created.
Enjoy — Nancie
UPDATE June 7, 2013:
Since this story first appeared in 2010, David Lee Csicsko has designed still more mosaics for public spaces like hospitals and chapels. This past Christmas, his windows, ornaments, pillows and trees adorned the White House – learn more about that here. David Lee Csicsko website: csicsko.com