Sunday, June 7, 2009

L.A. Metro Art Program

In 1989, the Los Angeles Metro founded a public art program that is funded through a mandated .5% set-aside of the Metro budget. The Metro Art program has commissioned hundreds of public art works for stations on the system's five rail lines. On the Metro Art program website, you can get details about free, docent-led art tours and you can order a copy of the excellent Metro Art Guide which Metro will mail to you for free. Here are a few pictures I took during a Sunday morning tour that left from Union Station:

Richard Wyatt in collaboration with May Sun, "City of Dreams, River of History" (1995). This large mural in the East Portal to the Union Station Metro depicts early and contemporary settlers of Los Angeles. The mural is framed by an architectural trompe l'oeil border:
James Doolin, "Los Angeles Circa 1879, 1910, 1950, and after 2000" (1995). These four murals depicting the history of the Los Angeles basin are located in the Metro Headquarters adjacent to Union Station. Here is "Los Angeles Circa 1879" showing the primarily agrarian basin with only a single smoke line rising into the clear, blue sky:

"Los Angeles Circa 1910" shows increased development, numerous brick buildings (which didn't end up surviving Southern California's earthquakes), railroads running along the L.A. River in the foreground, and almost a dozen columns of thick grey smoke rising from the city:
"Los Angeles Circa 1950" depicts the sculptural freeway intersections that became icons of Southern California's 20th century automobile-based transportation culture:
"Los Angeles Circa after 2000" depicts a smoggy orange and purple sunset over the heavily developed metropolis:

Terry Schoonhoven, "Traveler" (1993). This piece, which depicts travelers to L.A. during different historical periods, is well-known L.A. muralist Terry Schoonhoven's first tiled mural. Here is a detail showing Carole Lombard sitting on her suitcase with L.A.'s city hall in the background:

Architects Escudero-Fribourg and artist May Sun designed the Hollywood & Western Metro Station in 1999. The station is decorated in brightly colored tiles interspersed with poems in Spanish and English, historic photos, and images of bones excavated at the site by paleontologists when the station was built:

An image of one of the bones found at the Hollywood & Western site:

Patrick Nagatani, "Epoch" (1995). This photo collage mural is located in the Metro Headquarters adjacent to Union Station. It includes a running man, astronomical images from L.A. area telescopes, and a collection of hundreds of transportation-related postcards of cars, boats, trains, and trolley cars:

Roy Nicholson, "Solar Shift: San Bernardino and Santa Monica" (2006). Many of the Metro stations include beautiful mosaics such as this colorful glass mosaic at the Gold Line Portal in Union Station that depicts the San Bernardino Mountains to the East and the sun setting over Santa Monica to the West:

Artist Michael Davis and architects Diedrich/NBA colloborated on the Metro station at Vermont & Sunset. Because the station is located near the Griffith Observatory and a number of large hospitals, the artist used astronomical and medical imagery in the station. Here is a granite circle etched with an image of sperm that forms part of an imagined solar system on the station's floor:

For more information about the Los Angeles public transportation and the L.A. Metro art program:
Los Angeles Metro Website
Metro Art Program Website
Public Art in LA's Metro Page


  1. Wowwwww how fast. I am just back and you have already finished your blog of todays Metro tour. This blog is a treasure for everyone who would like to see more than Los Angeles tourist stuff.

  2. It's a little shocking to see beautiful transit infrastructure in Los Angelas. Your blog continues to blow east coast minds

  3. The LA Metro is great - it is fast, affordable, and reliable. The problem is that it only serves a very limited number of neighborhoods along a few lines. LA does have an extensive public bus system that covers the whole city and is reliable and affordable, but the buses are very slow.

  4. I love the fact that LA Metro uses art in their stations. It provides a showplace for the artist, and makes the ride just that much more enjoyable.

    Great shots. :)

  5. Those sperm are sort of pretty, I thought they were plants at first. I had no idea that LA even had a metro system!