Tuesday, April 24, 2012

CTA Rail Car Transformed Into Mobile Garden

In 2011 a CTA rail car in Chicago was transformed into a mobile garden as part of the Art on Track exhibit. I was part of the volunteers that helped noisivelvet convert the car below into a garden. Working on and observing this garden installation is what lead to my interest in researching mobile gardens and starting this blog.

CTA rail car transformed into mobile garden

Several rail cars where part of the exhibit, but only this car was a mobile garden. The garden was assembled and installed in a train yard near Midway airport in one morning. Precautions had to be taken to ensure the train could be put back into use the next day. To ensure the train's integrity we had to lay down a plastic tarp to protect the floor and seats.

Grass on CTA train mobile garden

The garden installation utilized a variety of plants including perennials, grasses, sod, annuals, edible, and tropical plants.

mobile gardens on trains

The volunteers laid down a sod to give the floor and seats an organic look. As if the seats where actually made of grass and not just covered. A net was strung along the ceiling of the passageway and various vines were interwoven to create a green canopy.

Mobile Garden CTA Chicago

The end result was very convincing and fun to experience. The ride along the Orange Line into the Loop before the train and garden were boarded by attendees of Art on Track was interesting. Riding inside this living thing watching as it passed along trees and people's yards was surreal. As were the reactions of people as we pulled into the stations.

Mobile Gardens Chicago

As we rode along the elevated rail line the sun was making its decent into the horizon behind us making for a ride where you could contemplate a lot. The silence of the ride was only interrupted by the sound of the screeching wheels as we made our way around bends.

Passengers CTA mobile garden

Once we arrived in the Loop and we started to take on passengers it was a completely different experience. The rail car became crowded, but unlike during a normal commute people were friendly and interacted with each other and bonded over the experience of riding inside a garden.

I took this short video using my phone's camera. Recording with this device was a choice. I wanted to capture the "look" of the videos we've all seen on sites like YouTube of fights and crime occurring on public transportation, but depict something a lot more positive.

After the event was over the train was returned to the yards and the garden was dissembled. Some of the plants were returned to their owners and other plants were donated. The purpose of the garden installation was promote The Mobile Garden, a garden installation of native plants the artist hopes to install on a CTA train in 2012.

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