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Tuesday, August 16, 2011

An Inside Look at the MTA's Arts for Transit

It can be a bit difficult to wrap one’s head around the scope and size of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. The behemoth government organization is responsible for the transport of over 11 million people each weekday. Yet somewhere in the middle of hustling between subways, tracking the balance of your MetroCard and dodging the shady looking character at the edge of the platform, there is a good chance that you’ve missed some of the quality art that has been commissioned solely for NYC Subway, Long Island Rail Road and Metro North Stations.

Arts For Transit was founded over 25 years ago by the MTA in order to install quality, permanent works in scores of stations on nearly every subway line in the city and several regional rail stations. The official Arts for Transit site best sums up their mission: 

“The founders of the New York City subway believed that every design element in the system should show respect for our customers and enhance the experience of travel. As the century-old transportation network is restored and renewed, these decorative elements of the past are preserved and protected as contemporary art and design are introduced.”

In short, since the general populous of NYC have spent so much time on the subway over the last 100 years shouldn’t there be something nice to look at? Since public transit is such a large part of our life, shouldn’t it reflect some of our culture?

The Big Adventure strongly recommends picking up the detailed brochure “Art En Route: A guide to art in the MTA Network" (Click for a PDF version)” for a mere fifty cents here and here.

Some of the installations are endlessly compelling and sensational while others are simply more functional than anything else. Some works are even still being installed as the program continues to grow. Given the need for art with the ability to withstand the wear & tear of a 24-hour system, most artists have done their work in mediums of Laminated Glass, Faceted Glass, Mosaics of all sort, murals, skylights and the occasional sculptures. Not a painted canvas to be seen. We’ve mentioned one of our favorite station’s art located at 14th and 8th once before on our blog.

Thanks to the MTA's interactive site, you can get the full skinny on The Art in Transit projects in all of the Subway Stations throughout the system. Just click on the line you’d like to know more about. We think you might be surprised about which art has been unassumingly lurking near your train stop.  As we continue to discover, sometimes the best of NYC is right in front of your face:

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