Art In Transit Essay, Research Paper
Arts in Transit
It is never pleasant to wait in the cold for however long it takes for the train to arrive at the public transit stations, otherwise known in Boston as the ?T,? during the winter. Nor is the thought of waiting during an intolerable heat wave in July to catch the subway across to the different communities of Boston. Honestly, there is never a time where I would call it enjoyable to sit inside of the MBTA. That was until I began to notice some of the art around me. I would have to say that the first time I realized that a community joined together with the city and the MBTA itself to create a more enjoyable setting to be, whether you were on your way home from work, or just trying to get to another part of town for whatever reason, was along the orange line.
I did not however realize that what I was looking at had deeper meaning contained within until I really sat and thought about what artists was trying to convey in their art. I did not take the time as I was rushing past before, on my way to what I thought was more important, than trying to see all of the various sculptures, paintings, and mosaics as more than just a nice object. The real meaning behind the art is conveyed at each station, representing the community beyond, and the importance of the MBTA itself. As I looked at each, I began to see the importance of bridging the ethnicity and diversity across Boston as a whole, and not keeping it segregated with in each neighborhood. As people travel from station to station they see the community around them, that is no more then a few stops away. Artists of the communities they represent created most of the works of art with in the stations, therefore including the neighborhood in the creation of the places they inhabit. This along with other mediums that included prose and theater brought the city and the neighborhoods together to create a sense of awareness of what one another is all about.
Varying in medium and design, each station had a unique representation of either the community that exists around them, past or present, or of the transportation system itself. Beginning at the Forest Hill stop ?Transcendental Greens? seemed to brighten the very architectural design of the station. Beginning outside of the station the sculpture of what appears to be trees, made from a street sign like material, seems to bring life and color to the station. Even in the dead of winter the bright tropical look of the green and orange trees felt warm. It was an inviting splash of color to the gray backdrop of the stations concrete and bricks. Inside the station, heading across the elevators, up and onto the street level, the long rise of columns with the sculpture attached gives a feeling of trees inside the building. Coming up the escalator from directly across the way the large forms of blue, red, yellow, orange and green bring more of a tropical feel to the station. I cannot say what this may say about the neighborhood around it, but I feel that it represents the ethnicity of the cultures with in the community. The city sense of the street signs combined with the nature like feel of the trees seem to convey a feeling of what we have to look at for flora within the urban area. My company and I agreed that it was ugly and uninventive when we approached it. The longer I looked at the sculpture I realized what an artistic way in the manner the ?trees? were constructed. Atop the long poles that are essential to the construction of the stairs to and from the platform, the shapes of the metal actually appeared to be trees. The material of which they were constructed really brought the feeling to me of the city outside combined with the nature that was destroyed while the city developed over the years long ago.
Next stop we appeared in front of, beside and behind the hanging sculpture with in Green Street station. ?Color Passages? was a fluid, geometric construction. Rugged and raw metal enveloped perfect squares of colored glass. This sculpture was defiantly portraying parts of the MBTA. With 19 sculptures reflecting the 19 stops along the orange line, the metal with in the sculptures painted in green and orange representing the Green St. Station along the orange line, and the color of the glass attached depicting the colors of all of the lines; red, blue, green, orange, and purple for the commuter rail, this is the work of art that my companions and I spent the most time finding subliminal clues. Each time we looked and began to walk away we noticed another part of the puzzle that wasn?t evident from just glancing along the top perimeter of the station. The sun reflected through the top windows and dotted the downstairs platform with a speckling of color. I enjoyed what little color I could gather along the train tracks, as the day was cold, and I had a long route ahead of me. It was also interesting to see such a abstract looking sculpture appear to have more a defined set of meaning, instead of just beautiful randomness. This sculpture felt more intriguing to me in more of an interpretive art sense then the next station, where the art itself was more visually graceful, and left little scrutinization.
Stony Brook station contained a mosaic mural of the people, as the once existed around the station. With Van Gogh type brush stroke, the first piece we saw signed along the trip was a mosaic of a street scene around the community. A multi-ethnic population was the focus of this work. It created a busy scene, as people went about their daily duties, whether it be running or riding a bike. Few people seemed to be one ethnicity, as most were two shades of color, with no one-shade dominating. Set next to mosaic style windows, the painting seemed to be as if you were looking out of them during a busy summer day. I do not feel that this is a timeless piece of art for this community?s station. As time changes, so do each neighborhood, and the people with in it. For instance this painting was of a very 80?s era, as the jogger was wearing tube socks with read colored rings. It is however an incredibly done piece, which brings life to what my fellow class- mates and I decided, was lonely station. The next station seemed to have more of a timeless piece in ?Faces in the Crowd.?
Staring at the sculpture of three faces, I wondered what the direction of each was supposed to represent. Was it the past, present and future? Who was this man and whom is he supposed to represent? His features appeared to be of a black man. Is he representative of a passenger, who looks around him as he waits or leaves the station? Is this sculpture someone who I would see as I waited, as another face in the crowd? These were some of the questions the group I had collected along my way asked one another. The representation of the community within the sculpture, tells me that there is more of a non-white community beyond its doors. Along the whole trip, this station seemed to be less populated by white people than most.
The Roxbury Crossing seemed to be the most genuinely concerned with displaying the thought and ideal of community. Titled ?Neighborhood? five banners depicted life around the community of Roxbury. The first, a midnight ride of Paul Revere showed some of the history of Boston. The second, a community of black women with white children, seemed to represent the racial equality of the community. The next banner seemed to stress the importance of children in the neighborhood, as did the next banner. This one showed slightly older children, as they played. Finally the representation of the church brought together the ideology of a community joined with political, and religious affiliations to create a sense of whole. These images appear to have a substantial amount in giving the passengers a way to look at the community around them, and to reflect that in a positive and fun manner. This was extremely more substantial piece of art than that of the next station known as ?Massachusetts Avenue Installation.?
My group of friends, who now totaled five, who collected along the way at each station agreed that this was the worst piece along the orange line. Large metal tubes filled with neon color hung from the ceiling. I assumed they were supposed to turn in the wind, but didn?t seem to be moving, even though I could now feel the wind like pickers under all of my layers of clothing. I could not see how these three large tubes contributed to the community, or how they reflected the neighborhood. This sculpture was in a shadow between two stops that were filled with truly representative pieces of the way of life in the area.
The next stop of Back Bay had the most meaningful pieces to the construction of the orange line, and the history of the community. A large statue of a civil rights leader, whom had worked for union workers rights, sat relaxed with pen in hand. This combined with the photographs of porters from days past showed a more concise picture of how the years had changed along with the MBTA. The pictures of the black porters who used to serve the meals along the railroad, and the man that helped wage their battles for equality and the right to earn a substantial living, showed the need for a strong relationship to occur between economics and politics in Boston. This stop took more time as we poured over the pictures and imagined what life at that time was like. It was a truly moving piece that will withstand the years, and always be informational to the passengers of the ?T.?
Finally in New England Medical Center, ?Caravans,? showed a more constructive approach to art. Using the colors of the MBTA lines, as was done before in ?Color Passages,? this sculpture could be seen from the train as well as on the platform. It undoubtedly was a depiction in how the development of the subway system had occurred, using compasses, numbers and other construction symbols. As my new friends and I stared at the piece we noticed a few of the hidden symbolism within the art work as we had on the other stops, but by now we were too numb to walk, or think about anything but going home and having a hot cup of coffee. The entire experience showed me how much more there was to offer, as I had to wait for the train home.
As I departed from the train and walked the few blocks to my house I thought about what these pieces of art represented to the community, and myself. I felt that the role of public art in the MBTA, is not only to brighten and make the stations more pleasant, but to also offer the community hope. In many stations there was a depiction of community and neighborhood living, as well as tied the importance of having a means of transportation to travel. As Boston?s parking problems are well aware, along with bad roads, and intense traffic, the ?T? is one means where for a dollar, you can travel to the other side of the city, with convince. I think the MBTA wanted to convey this in some of the art. The graffiti seen between Green St. and Forest Hills is more of a contemporary definition, by Kreigal?s standards. It was not so much political and religious slurs, but more of a graphic of ones name or alternate persona. However, I do not completely agree with Kreigal?s method of labeling graffiti. Artists begin with a slight tag of their name, which over time develops to a more stylistic design. From there major works of art in a design sense are created. To some it may appear that graffiti ruins the d?cor of the city surrounding, but to me it is beautiful. Not all artists can afford to spend their money on large canvases, or painting supplies. I have known more than one artist who as soon as he felt the cold touch of the spray paint can beneath his fingers was itching to go and spray his name along a wall. From these small tags, larger works of art have come to life. Although more apparent in such cities as New York, one painting that has come to mind was that on Commonwealth Ave. A once small time tag artist, claimed space on the side of an International House of Pancakes restaurant, and created a larger than life mural of a neighborhood in the city of Boston. It recently has been torn down, and none of the mural was saved. Also along Huntington Ave are large community murals that incorporate the people into the works of art. So in conclusion I feel that graffiti, no matter how insignificant it may seem, has the possibility to grow in style, design and graphic. This combined with a trained hand on how to apply the paint can amount to a beautiful work of art that can be appreciated by more than an upper class all white area, but by people regardless of race, age and gender.