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MTA Arts in Transit Guest Visit April 29, 2009

Posted by leskanturek in Art History, Guest Visits, Public art.
Tags: , , ,

blog-train1(Above) Barbara Segal’s “Muhheakantuck (The River that Flows Two Ways), Aluminum reliefs on train overpass (2005) on the Hudson Line /Yonkers

On Monday (April 20th), Amy Hausmann (below-left), the Assistant Director of MTA Arts for Transit, paid a visit to our class to speak aboamy-stillut her department’s mission and role in commissioning artists for site specific, public artwork in the New York transit system.

Statistics on the amount of people using the transit system is staggering, approx. 8 million commuters on a given weekday. That’s per day. Asking for a show of hands of how many students (our class was joined by Wendy Popp’s concepts class.) view art work in the subway during their daily commute, it was an overwhelming majority. This was not always the case. My memory of subway stations while growing up in the 60’s and 70’s is one of decaying, vandalized public spaces. The way we presently experience the subway (and the LIRR and Metro-North) is a testament to the work MTA Arts for transit has done over the last 25 years to change the way we look at the shared public space of the transit system.

Amy started her powerpoint presentation pointing out that from the subway’s inception a mandate was built into it’s mission statement to create and design a visually beautiful public space, “…and enhance the experience of travel.” As Amy stressed , very forward thinking for 1904. MTA Arts for Transit’s budget for projects is derived from a portion of the renovation budget of the station/space to be refurbished. So art works are installed or planned only for a station that is being rehabilitated or improved.


(Above) Art en Route, A pocket guide to art in the MTA Network that was passed out during the visit. You can e-mail a request for a copy at the MTA Art for Transit site.

Amy brought with her pocket guides to some of the art in the MTA system. it’s organized by subway line with called out images of art installations. There is also a book, “Along the Way” by Sandra Bloodworth , Director of MTA Arts for Transit, and William Ayres, curator at the Long Island Museum in Stony Brook. Looking through the guide and book gives you a sense of the varied range of art in the transit system, both in concept and in materials. Donald Lipski’s inverted olive tree


with crystals at Grand Central Terminal, Walter Martin’s and Paloma Munoz’s Canal Street station filled with 174 grackles and blackbirds…the subway is one big art museum.

A number of illustrators have created art for the transit system; Raul Colon, Owen Smith, Milton Glaser, Dave Calver, George Bates (Parsons Illustration Dept. instructor), Peter Sis, Jose Ortega, Edward Del Rosario (Parsons Illustration Dept. instructor) to name a few. In that spirit, finishes for the class assignment of creating proposals for site specific art in individual subway stations were also up on the wall during Amy’s visit. she graciously agreed to critique them and offer her professional opinion .


You can view the entire assignment sheet I handed out in a previous post. In a nut shell, each student created artwork for a subway station of their choice. In the course of creating a proposal students researched the history of the area/station and took into account the amy-critblogmake up of the community it serves. Each student attempted to integrate their art with the architecture of the station in some way.

Below are some of the assignments.

P(Left) Amy Hausmann criting a student’s proposal

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Paula Searing: Wall Street


Rather than work with Bulls and Bears , I was struck with horses because they can be both graceful and rampant like Wall street’s sides of prosperity and cut throat behavior. The original art is done in acrylic paint, sprayed over stencils.

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Mark Lev: 50th Street


50th Street station ( the 1, 2, 3 line). My subway installation is interactive (a musical component) as well as aesthetic. It consists of several Hang drums (developed in 2000 in Berne Switzerland) of various sizes and tunings, installed into the subway wall. In the above mural they are the blue spheres with darker blue round indentations. The drums can be played without any special tools and create resonant, ghostly tones similar to a steel drum. The effect of several people playing them would be a mass of tones echoing throughout the station creating an eerie but sonorous atmosphere. Colorful, circular tile patterns around each drum seem to ripple across the wall, evoking ideas of sound waves, water droplets, and mimicking the sound qualities of the drums.


Here is a link to a video of the Hang drum being played http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WEJc2wKkwjM&feature=PlayList&p=D12F8B5F76C1C4E8&index=32 it’s a very distinctive sound .

William Crosby: Smith-9th Street Subway Station Gowanus


The Smith/9th Street Station · Opened in 1933. The station has the distinction of being the highest elevated station in the system. The station was originally built elevated 91 feet to accommodate tall-mast shipping in the Gowanus Creek under the station.

Evan Turk: Greenpoint Ave. Station Brooklyn


Evan’s mural is a narrative based on the Lenape Indian legend of Rainbow Crow. The Rainbow Crow brings fire from the Great Spirit in the sky to the earth. But due to the smoke he no longer is rainbow-colored , but a black crow. This myth was chosen to reference the Lenape Indians indigenous to the Greenpoint area.

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Julian Uribe: ” Cultural Intertwine” Jackson Heights (7, E, F, G, R, V)

Jackson Heights is one of the most culturally diverse neighborhoods and the first garden city in the five boroughs of New York City. I realized in every culture found in Jackson Heights the frog is a common symbol of nature, peace, and power. Ethnic patterns unite with the frog symbol in my design for the station, all of which I hope allow the neighborhood to be more in touch with their diverse ethnic community .


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Julie Pinzur: The Bleecker Farm” Bleecker Street (the 6 train)



Ceramic mosaic on walls near the subway exit. Anthony Bleecker, who the street was named after, along with his family owned the land where the station now stands. The scene shows farmland, which is representative of  this area  in the 1800s. Anthony Bleecker was also one of the founders of the New York Historical Society, and was a trustee of the New York Society Library.

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Naomi Koffman: Ghost” 72nd Street/Central Park West


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Jenel Lawson: Lexington Ave.  63rd St. Station

JenelALL3Near this station four embassys are located;  France, Italy, Pakastan and India. Different color strands of thread  represent each  country and stich part of the globe.



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