to love the world.
And we sat there with our souls in our laps,
and comforted them.
Narr: Poetry in Motion began in 1992, but was retired for four years in 2008 when the MTA decided to experiment with prose passages instead. Quinn says the experiment was unsuccessful, perhaps because the out-of-context choices were decidedly downbeat.
Quinn: I think the opening sentence of ‘The Metamorphoses’ about awaking one morning and discovering you’ve been transformed into a cockroach did not endear subway riders to the program!
Narr: Quinn believes that poetry lends itself more easily to the confines of a small poster or Metrocard, and any connection to art is a connection to one’s inner life.
Quinn: Those poems are short, and they make an impression. And you have a chance to read them over and over. With a poem, you can have the amazing experience of having a work of art within you. You’re most likely to encounter it in your own voice for the first time, and if you memorize it, it’s doubly within you, and you can call it to mind any time.
Narr: Arts for Transit, which supervises arts and entertainment programs at the MTA’s subway stations, is also launching a new iPhone and Android app. The MTA launched it last month to give New Yorkers a guided tour of subway art installations. Users can search by subway line, station and artist, and see photos of installations with explanatory descriptions. Users can search neighborhood by neighborhood to see how Roy Lichtenstein captured the essence of Times Square with his “Times Square Mural,” or how Faith Ringgold immortalized uptown legends with “Flying Home Harlem Heroes and Heroines” at Lenox St. station.
Amy Hausmann, assistant director of Arts for Transit, says the neighborhood connections are key to the art.
Hausmann: It’s very site-specific. It’s very much about the people who live in the neighborhoods, and we ask the artists to really think about the people who have lived in that place before, the people who live there now, and the people whowill come to that place in the future.
Narr: Arts for Transit was established in 1986, a time when New York’s subways had fallen into neglect. Since then, a portion of construction costs has gone to permanent artwork – typically $100,000 to 126,000 per installation.
Jean Phifer is the author of the book Public Art New York. She says that arts initiatives always enhance her subway trips.
Phifer: They’ve just done a new installation at the Brooklyn Museum with reproductions of historic artefacts in the walls. So there are a lot of stations that have really unusual and interesting things. It can be really beautiful, it can be moving, it can really make you think, and interact with the space.
Narr: At 42nd St./Times Square, commuters rushing past the Lichtenstein mural agreed.
MOS: “I love it. I’m also in the arts myself, I think it enhances travel for a lot of people.” “I think it makes the train station look way better.” “I love it! It’s fun. It makes people feel alive.”
Narr: That was Joy Dreyfuss, Jannea Alyce, and Lilya Rubinov. Amy Hausmann, Assistant Director of Arts for Transit, says that art in the subway is important for more than just its aesthetic pleasure.
Narr: There will be new art underground when the 7-line extension opens in 2013. Final plans are underway for a new mosaic by Harlem-based artist Xenobia Bailey. Will Sloan, Columbia Radio News.