stories

Outside the Green Line

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The east-west leg of the Green Line runs from Harlem Ave in Oak Park to the loop in downtown Chicago. This is the train I take to work and back often with my nose buried in my phone and the quiet chatter of fellow commuters in my ears. The Green Line in particular cuts through one of the most undulating economic landscapes in the city and I've spent much of my time on either end of it, rarely throughout the middle.

From stop to stop I saw the architecture change, the property value change, and the demographic change and yet one thing that remained constant was the beauty of each neighborhood. As I ventured outside of the Green Line I got to see how each neighborhood told their story in a variety of ways. Murals that portray some of Garfield Park's heroes light up the wall of Breakthrough's Fresh Market on W. Carroll Ave. There was a message from one of my favorite Chicago artists on the walls south of the Central stop. "You Are Beautiful" by Matthew Hoffman was outlined in a black silhouette reminding everyone that we have a beautiful story to tell.

Willa Cather Elementary was in line to close in 2013. Nestled just west of the California stop, the school now greets commuters each morning with a new basketball court lit up by a vibrant mural at center court with the words "Dream Big" encircling it. There is a new turf field next to a playground that shares some basic nutrition advice in an artistic manner that serves many students living in a food desert. What was going to be another abandoned building on the west side is a beacon of hope and encouragement for those living off the California stop.

As I ride into the West Loop the landscape changes again. There are cranes and "Grand Opening" signs everywhere. A focal point for development in the city of Chicago where companies like McDonalds and Google now call home. The warm fragrance from Federales, a Mexican-barbecue style restaurant sitting just under the tracks, waft into the Green Line before taking off for the Loop. I quickly hit sights of the Willis tower welcome me to the city of broad shoulders.

What a trip its been. As I look back on the neighborhoods I saw a lot of differences throughout each one. But I also saw the beauty in each neighborhoods story and challenge you to look at your city this way next time. We are more alike then we may think and the whole of Chicago is more beautiful than the sum of its parts.

Shot for and inspired by the #photographchicagocontest and the photographers who help capture the stories of Chicago.