29 September 2009
Posted by Paul Anater at 6:37 AM
I brought up New York's Metropolitan Transit Authority and their Arts for Transit program a couple of weeks ago. The MTA dedicates 1% of the money it brings in every year to fund permanent art installations throughout New York's entire transit system.
Over the course of the last 21 years, the MTA has assembled what's clearly New York's most expansive art collection. The works are all site-specific and feature media that range from mosaic to cast bronze and from faceted glass to enamel.
My smart friend Tom knows I love the Arts for Transit program and he sent me some images of some gorgeous mosaics located throughout the MTA's system and he sent me the link to the directory of these installations. I spent an hour poking around and jumping from station to station, just looking for works I already know and love and earmarking works to find the next time I'm in the City. I came across an old favorite and I hadn't thought about it in years.
This is Canal Street.
Canal Street offers what I say is the most intense example of urban life that there is to be found in the US. It's impossible to walk down Canal Street and not get caught up in the crush of humanity and traffic and noise and the thrill of being alive in the center of the universe.
Now if you duck down this hole in the sidewalk at the corner of Canal Street and 6th Avenue, you'll come face to face with Walter Martin and Paloma Muñoz's The Gathering from 2001.
The Gathering is a collection of 181 life-sized, bronze blackbirds, grackles and crows and they're integrated perfectly into the grates and gates of the station and platforms.
Canal Street's about as far as one can be removed from anything resembling a non-human life form and it's a pretty jarring surprise to run into 181 black birds in a subway station underneath the bedlam unfolding in the streets above. I love birds, I love New York and I love art. It's a grand slam. Thank you MTA.
The Gathering is the work of Walter Martin and Paloma Muñoz and I wrote about them last August. Martin and Muñoz created a series of provocative snow globes I am still crazy about. Snow globes? Yes, snow globes. Follow the link and check check them out.
Anyhow, if you find yourself in New York and want to take an unconventional museum tour, buy a $2 Metro Card and cruise from station to station. The MTA's website makes plotting out such a tour easy.
Art is important, I'll go so far as to say that it's vital to the health of a society. Seeing the amount of time, money and attention the Metropolitan Transit Authority spends on public art should serve as an example to cities across the rest of the US. In a time of contracting economies and squeezed budgets, Art's still important. Maybe it's even more important now than ever.