Talking about the collaboration between Duo-Gard Industries and artist Vara Kamin for the art panels in shelters, Michael Arvidson, executive vice president for Duo-Gard Industries reflects what the FTA states. “Transit can be a stressful location for people. They’re coming to a spot, they don’t know the other people there, it could be dark, it could be in a not-so-great neighborhood or someplace they’re not familiar with, so it’s a way to provide a location that’s more pleasing and calming.” He adds, “They are something that’s not only beautiful, but they are proven to have a calming effect on people.”
Programs Providing Art
Agencies are incorporating a variety of arts in a variety of ways throughout their systems. A sampling of project ideas is shared here.
Allen from Metro describes Poetry in Motion, an annual regional competition highlighting chosen poems in posters for the trains and buses. “People can submit up to three poems and we select a panel of literary experts to judge the poems.” He shares, “Typically we have anywhere from 100 to 150 people submit the poems and we’ll usually get well over 300 poems.
“We select 15, we design them into posters and put them up in our trains and buses for a year and that’s accompanied with a poetry reading. The 15 are invited to come and read their poems to an audience of about 50 people.”
Metro Arts in Transit’s Art Bus Fleet consists of four to six buses where artists are commissioned to work with community sponsors and organizations, such as Boys and Girls Club, Big Brothers, Big Sisters, the Botanical Garden and other non-profit organizations that want to do an event. Allen says, “The artist will design the bus to coincide with the mission or the purpose of the organization and then we’ll bring it out at a weekend event where the sponsor organizes families and the bus is painted out in the community as an event.”
Both Metro Arts in Transit and SEPTA’s Art in Transit Program commission artists to create permanent works of art in public facilities. SEPTA has completed 17 projects, two selected projects are going through the internal review process, one Call for Artists is currently posted on its Web site and there are three additional projects in various stages of design development that will advance with permanent art installations.
Incorporating art in a less time-consuming process is offered by some suppliers, such as Duo-Gard with its art-enhanced shelters. “We started a year and a half ago working with Vara Kamin, who is an artist,” explains Arvidson. “We had talked to her regarding some architectural applications that our company is also involved in and felt that the philosophy behind her artwork was a good fit for transit so we have developed a program for including her different artwork into the variety of structures.
“We’re attempting to take art work to a larger scale of application to maybe a whole series or a whole city and one thing we have proposed to a couple agencies that are very interested, is to do an original artwork piece that represents their community and their identity.”
Making it Happen
Though incorporating art can increase costs, there are grant sources available to help with this that agencies talk about. Mintz says the SEPTA program draws from the FTA’s guidelines for Design and Art in Transit Projects and the city of Philadelphia’s Percent for Art Program allocates up to 1 percent of project costs for capitally funded projects for permanent art.
“I apply for a bunch of grants, state and regional and even federal money,” Allen explains regarding funding Metro’s Art in Transit. Those include National Endowment for the Arts grants, Missouri Arts Council grants and Regional Arts Commission grants.
The Call for Artist process solicits artist participation for a project, listing the type of artwork, the location and the schedule for completion of work. Mintz explains, for SEPTA’s process, “Before the Call for Artists is prepared, a meeting is held with the Art in Transit program manager, the Art in Transit program consultant, and the project architect and engineers to review the design drawings and identify the range of art opportunities. The final art selection is identified in the call, along with details about the project.”
She adds that with SEPTA’s sustainability program, an electronic Call for Artists is posted on the SEPTA Web site and electronic postings are sent to area art institutions and organizations, as opposed to paper calls being sent out to thousands of artists when the program initially began.