Photos: The Art Of The Expo Line Extension's New Stations

Most of Metro's 93 rail stations are plastered with gorgeous public art. Above are images showing some of the art the transit agency commissioned for stations along the Expo Line's extension to Santa Monica.

L.A. County Metro is somewhat unique for its dedication to sponsoring and highlighting public art installations. The agency sponsors public art tours, lead by professional docents, to encourage people to learn more about the communities they live in and travel through. LAist reached out to Metro to learn a little bit more about the process. We spoke with Susan Gray, the Creative Services Manager of L.A. County Metro's Art Program.

LAist: So why does Metro choose to sponsor art for its stations?

Susan Gray: We do for a variety of reasons. Ultimately, Metro art enhances the customer experience with innovative visual and performing arts programming that encourages ridership and connects people, sites and neighborhoods throughout Los Angeles County. A diverse range of site-specific artworks are integrated into the growing Metro system, improving the quality of transit environments, creating a sense of place and strengthening ties with the communities we serve. From photography installations to onboard posters, art tours and live performances, our art programs add vibrancy and engage communities throughout Los Angeles.

LAist: How does Metro select the art eventually featured at its stations?

Gray: It's a highly competitive process. We spent a lot of time developing a selection process we believe best serves the communities connected by the system. We use a community based artti panel to guide the selection process. The panel consists of artists, art and design professionals, people familiar with developing public art, and other community members. An advisory group of local stakeholders studied the Expo corridor and informed a resource guide that was provided to the artist finalists with information about the communities they would be working in. This was a point of departure for the artists’ own research.

We conducted extensive outreach to artists and hosted workshops on how to apply for our project. We then issued a request for qualifications which was open to artists in California, though most of our finalists lived in L.A. County. Our art panel analyzed the artists' qualifications, including their resumes and previous work. The panel then developed a shortlist of finalists, interviewed them and reviewed their proposals for each neighborhood, and eventually made a recommendation to Metro for selection. The evaluation criteria included artistic merit, originality of concept and appropriateness to the site.

LAist: Did the artists choose a specific neighborhood to work in?

Gray: The application process allowed for them to express interest in a specific neighborhood. Ultimately, we're looking for the best artist for each specific neighborhood, and we help give them the resources to do their best possible work. Artists were encouraged to actively conduct their own research within the community, and to be true to their creative process while in design mode. There's no one-size fits all approach here, and we have a variety of artistic expressions and approaches to community engagement. For example one of the artists chartered a helicopter to get a better view of the area, while others conducted interviews and orchestrated portraits of community members. One artist collected amazing amounts of clothing, while another assembled collages of objects found while walking around the neighborhood. That being said, all artworks were fabricated in high quality durable materials such as porcelain enamel steel and mosaic panels for full integration into the station architecture.

LAist: What about for station design in the future? L.A.'s Metro stations often look very different from each other line-to-line. How is Metro working in the future to develop a more unified style?

Gray: Moving through the years, we've gravitated towards establishing a uniform design for each transit corridor. The Expo Line stations were designed with this in mind, and all have consistent color palettes, canopies, and signage. We've learned this is really important with both at-grade and above-grade stations to assist transit patrons in identifying and navigating our system. Looking forward, systemwide design will incorporate this more fully, and will have a sophisticated and elegant station design that helps people easily identify future stations as 'Metro'. The artwork will be an important, memorable moment connecting transit riders to their destination and letting them know they have arrived.

If you're interested in learning more about Metro's public art, the agency sponsors free docent guided tours of the stations adorned with art pieces. Tours of Expo stations will be available in the near future, but the agency holds monthly tours of both Union Station and the Red Line subway. To learn more, visit Metro's Art Webpage and select the "Art Tours" tab. Tours are two hours long on selected weekend mornings. Tours are conducted in English and Spanish.