If you’ve walked along North Avenue recently, you might have noticed a colorful, geometric mural on Code Ninjas, a computer coding school near Harlem Avenue. The artwork, created by local elementary students, is part of a new mural series spearheaded by The North Avenue District.
In 2018, the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP) partnered with The North Avenue District to create a revitalization plan for the North Avenue corridor.
The corridor, between Austin Boulevard and Harlem Avenue, separates Oak Park and Chicago. Although it was once a thriving commercial corridor, North Avenue had seen an increase in vacancies in recent years. The avenue also serves as both a physical and symbolic barrier between the two communities.
The revitalization plan recommended strategies to improve the corridor’s economic vitality, enhance quality of life for residents, and increase connections between communities. One recommendation: use art to create a more attractive and inviting streetscape.
“We really want to turn North Avenue from a barrier to a bridge,” Judith Alexander, chair at The North Avenue District, told Austin Weekly News. Along with public art projects, the organization is pushing for improvements to infrastructure to create a more pedestrian-friendly corridor.
Other communities around northeastern Illinois — including Lemont, Englewood, and Pilsen — have used art to help create a sense of place and foster community and economic activity. Check out CMAP’s toolkit to learn how to incorporate arts and culture into your own community.