CROYA Paints New Mural Under Lake Forest Viaduct with Help From LFHS Alum


Annie Kelly, Staff Writer

Underneath the viaduct at the intersection of North McKinley and Illinois Road lies a mural that holds a great history within the town. For decades, Lake Forest High School seniors were given the opportunity to compete for this space and make it their own. Year after year masterpieces were made that brightened up the space, and that the community adored. 

Recently, the time had come for a new mural and that was when CROYA stepped in. With the idea of honoring and celebrating CROYAs 40th Anniversary, the CROYA staff saw an opportunity to do it in the form of a mural. So, they reached out to City Hall with this plan. City Hall, the CROYA Foundation, and formal mural design winner Tommy Quinn were all on board, so the project set forward. 

Thanks to Lake Forest High School staff member, and leader of LFHS art club, Mrs. Carolyn Bielski, Tommy Quinn was asked to paint and design the mural. Having graduated from LFHS Class of 1999, Quinn was grateful to be able to revisit this space. During his senior year of high school, Quinn had spent plenty of time there working on his “Senior Satire,” which was an LFHS take on Edward Hopper’s painting “Nighthawks.” 

Excited to get the opportunity to paint at his old stomping grounds, Tommy met with CROYA youth and staff to determine which direction to take for the new mural. After numerous zoom meetings and discussions, it was decided that the words “U BELONG” and the various icons within were the perfect choice. 

Tommy was able to capture the ever-present feeling of ‘belonging’ at CROYA, while appreciating the diversity of interests and activities that make CROYA the special place it is,” said CROYA manager, Todd Nahigian. “Tommy created approximately 170 individual icons, and they tell an amazing story of CROYA’s 40 years! Everyone can find something they relate to in the mural.” 

The masterpiece checked off every box that the CROYA staff and youth envisioned. The icons within do a great job highlighting what the Lake Forest, Lake Bluff, and Knollwood communities are all about. “The creativity and specific detail in the icons is incredible,” said Nahigian “You can look at it 100 times and see something new each time! I am extremely proud of how the mural turned out.” 

With lots of hard work, and even more paintbrushes, this vision became a reality. The “U BELONG” mural will now be a staple in the community, and will never be forgotten when looking back and remembering the past history of the creative space underneath the viaduct.  

Check out a time-lapse of the “U BELONG” mural being painted by Tommy Quinn and his helpers.