After seven years of work with dozens of DePaul University art students, Vincentian Brother Mark Elder recently completed work on 25 murals that wrap the cement support pillars at the Chicago Transit Authority’s Fullerton Red, Brown and Purple Line L stop. The murals celebrate the 125-year history of DePaul University, which has been called “the Little School Under the L.” The Fullerton stop is located next to DePaul’s Lincoln Park campus, adjacent to Cacciatore Stadium and Wish Field. Many of the murals depict figures from the university’s history, such as Marion Amoureux and Rose Vaughan, the school’s first African American graduates; and legendary men’s basketball coach Ray Meyer. Other murals show the CTA, which connects the university’s Lincoln Park and Loop campuses, and the DePaul “Victory Song.” Each mural is 10 feet tall and 8 feet wide and painted on polytab, a material created specifically for murals that is similar to that used in parachutes, and installed like wallpaper. The idea for the project dates to 2010 when Elder, who has been an art professor at DePaul for 28 years, brought another artist who specializes in public art to speak to students. When walking across campus, the artist noted the pillars and suggested he do something there. Elder also created the large mural of St. Vincent de Paul that overlooks Wish Field. The largest portrait of the saint in the world, it is made of two-inch images of the faces of DePaul faculty and students, and it is easily seen by those awaiting northbound trains on the platform at Fullerton. Elder fleshed out the idea for the L stop murals over five years, while he decided how he could best use the project to teach the students in his Creating Murals class and to help the wider community. In the past, his students would create murals for nonprofits around the city, but this project had the advantage that no transportation was required. Elder sought input from the DePaul community about who and what to feature by holding gatherings where people could learn about the project and offer suggestions. “That allowed people to tell me what they thought was important, and that’s how I work as a public muralist,” Elder said. “Before I take on any real project, it’s a matter of discourse to hear just what the community sees as valuable that they want to portray to the rest of the world and people coming into that area. To me, that’s evangelization, because I’m there to serve. By doing that, you get those Catholic values coming out anyway.” Then, Elder created the designs and students helped him paint them in class. He and the students would complete a couple of murals each year. “I think, if anything, it has shown the community around DePaul what public art can be, and that there really isn’t anything to fear about it,” Elder said. “It’s a matter of ‘OK, let’s come together as a community. Talk. Find the common ground and show our values through the common ground that everybody believes in.’” He hopes the project inspires more public art, especially at the parish level. “Schools especially and parishes can really profit from doing communal art projects like the one that I just did under the L, and it can be a really great force to bring all people together and kind of rediscover their roots and their parish values and school values and make them visible to everybody,” Elder said. “Once you get a lot of people involved doing that, the precedent is set as to how other discussions and explorations can be done.” DePaul senior Tayvia Ridgeway has helped Elder on the mural project since she was a freshman. Born and raised in South Shore, as a junior in high school, she created a mural through After School Matters that is on display at the Metra Station at McCormick Place. “I worked with him basically every year since my freshman year installing murals, helping him paint them in his studio, just planning for that, helping them install them in his classes,” she said. “Because I’d been involved for so long, he gave me the opportunity to design the last one.” The last mural is dedicated to all of the people who participated in the mural project. The names of all the students who worked on the project are included in the mural. “It was really an honor to be given the opportunity to do that with him,” Ridgeway said. “I took it in the direction of having it represent everything that the pillars are, having it show the train, the L, having it show elements of DePaul in there.” She is proud of the work she has done. “I spent four years here dedicating my studies here and my hard work to those murals. It means a lot just to have my mark on DePaul and my city. I’m from Chicago, born and raised, from the South Side,” Ridgeway said. “It just means so much to put my own little mark on my hometown.” The murals have benefited the community too, she said. “It’s really just nice to see a whole layout of the history of DePaul and important figures at DePaul and people who really helped it become what the university is today and how they’ve impacted the school community and just the community of Chicago,” she said. “I think it’s very important that we do have public art because it’s not only paying tribute to who’s involved in the community and surrounding it, but it’s also community involvement.” From Jan. 10 to March 9, 2023, the university will host an exhibit about the mural process at the gallery inside the John T. Richardson Library on the Lincoln Park campus. The exhibit will be free and open to the public and will include video of the murals’ installations and names of the students who worked on the murals.