New Trier senior paints mural on Winnetka Avenue underpass to ‘make someone smile’


When New Trier senior Caroline Kelly drives into the City of Chicago, she often sees a white billboard that reads "You Are Beautiful" in a simple black font.

"It makes me smile every time," Kelly said. "I wanted to bring that to Winnetka."

So when Kelly was tasked to create a second semester project for New Trier's Integrated Global Studies School (IGSS) that would make a positive impact on the community, she put two and two together.

"I was at a loss for what to do at first, but I knew I wanted art to be involved," Kelly said. "I was brainstorming ideas with other students and someone suggested painting a mural. I immediately loved the idea."

The end result was a spray-painted "You Are Beautiful" mural across the Winnetka Avenue underpass between Green Bay Road and New Trier's Winnetka Campus.

"My goal of this project was simply just spreading a positive message," Kelly said. "This underpass is a very public place that many students, commuters and faculty walk or drive under every day, so I liked the thought that I could make someone smile."

The mural was approved by teacher Darrin Jeziorski, Kelly's mentor whom she met with weekly during the course of project.

"We asked students to make an actionable project beyond the walls of New Trier and the IGSS community," Jeziorski said. "She really thought about the wants and needs beyond here."

In January, Kelly began to study murals in order to make her vision work. She also dedicated her time to receiving permits to paint on the Winnetka Avenue underpass walls. Receiving these permits soon became the bulk of the project, she said.

Another local mural artist pointed her in the direction of the Union Pacific Railroad. A contact at the railroad guided her through what needed to be done in order to receive the permits.

"I ultimately emailed many people at the Village of Winnetka and talked to Principal Denise Dubravec at school to serve as an organization to back me on this project," Kelly said.

After several months, Kelly was granted the permits and permission to paint on the underpass. In order to complete the mural, she created stencils by projecting the letters onto butcher paper, tracing them and cutting out the letters.

Kelly, Jeziorski and her family and friends began painting the weekend of April 22-23. They measured the spaces between each of the letters and taped the stencils up before painting to make sure the phrase was level.

With favorable weather, Kelly finished the mural by herself on April 23 to Jeziorski's surprise.

"This was a great example of what the IGSS final project can be," he said. "She had to overcome so many hurdles. I admit, I doubted her a couple times because of the complexity of the project, but she was very, very persistent. The mural is a testament to her perseverance."