Mural at Ogilvie Metra station downtown aims to show off the Chicago River’s improving ecology

This mural outside the Ogilvie Transportation Center was painted by students from the Yollocalli Arts Reach program with artist Chris Silva.

Robert Herguth / Sun-Times

For Chicagoans of a certain generation, the Chicago River didn’t evoke images of nature. Pollution, yes. An abundance of animals and plants, not so much.

But that’s changed. And that’s reflected in the expansive mural outside Metra’s Ogilvie Transportation Center downtown.

The mural is filled with images of fish, a fox, birds, butterflies, a coyote, raccoons, bees and dragonflies as well as flowers.

Chris Silva created it with students from the Yollocalli Arts Reach program affiliated with the National Museum of Mexican Art.

The mural project, which took several years to get off the ground, wrapped up with last year’s installation.

A close-up of part of the mural on the exterior of the Ogilvie Transportation Center.

Robert Herguth / Sun-Times

“Chris Silva and the students walked the surrounding area of the Ogilvie station, and they noticed how beautiful the Chicago River looks against the high-rise buildings in downtown Chicago,” according to the Third Millennium Group, which funded the project on the Metra-owned building on Clinton Street just south of Washington Boulevard “to give back to the community” and beautify the area.

Artist Chris Silva.


According to the company, which owns a high-rise across the street, the students researched the river’s wildlife and vegetation and “incorporated the mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians, insects, fish, plants, flowers and trees into the mural to showcase the full river ecology.

“Each student drew various animals and vegetation in their own style. Their art pieces were then sent to” Silva, who combined them and “added his own artistic eye to the overall piece of the mural.”

A closeup view of another portion of the mural.

Robert Herguth / Sun-Times

The images were drawn digitally or by hand and then converted to digital. They were printed onto 3M film material that was adhered to the brick wall in 10 panels that are 14 feet tall and mostly nine feet wide. The mural is titled “River Pals.”

“The effect of the artwork taking on the true form of the brick really creates the illusion of it being painted directly on the wall,” says Silva, who grew up mostly on the North Side and now lives in South Bend, Indiana.

He says he was aiming to make the piece “joyful and colorful” while celebrating nature amid an “urban environment.”

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