Last week, I was given the opportunity to take a guided tour of the Orange Line Extension’s bike path and public art installation. For both the Expo Line and the Orange Line Extension, Metro commissioned a team of L.A. County artists to personalize the stations by creating public art projects to reflect the community. Los Angeles Times architecture critic Chris Hawthorne mocked the stations as “aggressively banal,” but Streetsblog South L.A.’s Sahra Sulaiman writes about how community groups are working to make the art even more accesible to those passing through.
With Sahra’s article fresh in my mind, I was wondering how the art could improve a station. After all, there’s even less customization one can do with a bus stop, even a full Bus Rapid Transit stop and station, than you can with Expo Line stations.
Metro commissioned twenty five pieces of art at four new stations and the new platform at Canoga Station. Each station had it’s own artist who created two pieces of elliptical art on the pavement and either three or four art panels that were in place of wind screens. The exception is Chatsworth Station which only has two panels and one ellipse . The number of panels varied based on whether or not the panels faced the public. In some cases, the back of the panel faces a wall.
Over one hundred and fifty artists submitted proposals based in part on community profile create by a local art advisory panel and other community leaders. The profile described the local culture, heritage and in some cases artistic styles of the area surrounding the station. For Metro, the community involvement in creating the guide was critical so each station provides not just some eye-pleasing art but some context on what kind of community one is entering as they step off the bus. Because the street adjacent to the Orange Line Extension is commercial, with freight yards, strip malls and even a strip club facing the stations; it’s the art that provides the real introduction to the Station area.
In an effort to use this program to advance artists’ careers, Metro did not require that the artists have experience with either panel art or the glass mosaics that were on the station. Artists were allowed to work in their preferred medium and specialists helped fit the original art into the mediums at the station.
Our review of each station is after the jump. But even if you don’t ride the Orange Line on bus or bike, you can still visit the art. You can arrange a tour for a group of 15 or more through the all-volunteer Metro Art Docent Council by calling 213-922-2738. Don’t have 14 friends interested in a tour? Metro is co-organizing with Valley College an exhibition about the Orange Line art. Titled, Translations: Artists of the Metro Orange Line, it will run from early October to early December. The exhibition will take place at Valley College’s Art Gallery. We will have more details as they become available. But for now, on to the art!