Mayor Rahm Emanuel sees the newly remodeled Garfield Green Line station, which doubles as an art gallery of sorts, as a fitting gateway to world travelers getting their first glimpse of the South Side as they journey to the nearby Obama Presidential Center.

“I don’t think we’re opening up a station, I think we’re unlocking a neighborhood,” Emanuel said at a ribbon cutting Thursday.

At a ribbon cutting Thursday, Emanuel described the station as “something that is world class on the South Side of the city of Chicago that when you look at the future will be the gateway for people who come from all over the globe to come to the Obama Center which is only a mile away.”

Emanuel gushed about the $50 million train station facelift that includes new architectural features, landscaping, extended platform canopies, and elevator and escalator upgrades. Construction of the Obama Center has yet to begin.

The artwork of Chicago artist Nick Cave, a world-renowned talent, serves as the station’s centerpiece.

Travelers entering the station will find a mosaic of flowers on the ceiling. But attention will first be drawn to large backlit photos of Cave’s signature “soundsuits.”

In Cave’s own words, the costumes “serve as an alien second skin that obscures race, gender, and class, allowing viewers to look without bias towards the wearer’s identity.” Cave regularly wears his creations for dance performances.

“The thought of the community coming and going every day, to be embraced, to be led by this sort of creative vision will change their demeanor, will enhance the way in which they sort of enter the world,” he said Thursday.

Emanuel studied one particular photo of a soundsuit that resembled an Easter bunny costume.

The new train station complements a larger Washington Park neighborhood revitalization effort that’s under way by community groups, property owners and the University of Chicago.

A currency exchange across the street from the station was transformed into a coffee shop, which sits between an arts incubator and a performing arts center. A few feet away is the 126-year-old original Green Line station house, which is being rehabbed into a community space.

Emanuel said he got the idea for the art-focused project from a newspaper story about a train station in Germany that featured art that was built into the structure.

“I said, ‘We should do something like this. Why don’t we do this?'” he recalled.

“Usually my staff, when I give them an idea, it dies at the elevator,” he joked.

Roses by artist Nick Cave on the ceiling of the CTA Green Line Garfield station

Art created by Chicago artist Nick Cave on the ceiling of the newly remodeled CTA Green Line Garfield station. | Mitch Dudek/Sun-Times