Subway Station Art – Coney Island/Stillwell Avenue Station

Visitors to the Coney Island/Stillwell Avenue train station in Brooklyn are in for a real treat – artist and theater director/designer Robert Wilson’s art installation, My Coney Island Baby (2003). Wilson explored archival images of Coney Island’s holiday trip and amusement park history in his screen-printed works, which span a glass brick wall stretching approximately 370 feet along one side of the station.

The station is entirely above ground, as the subway lines are elevated in this part of Brooklyn. The glass wall brings a lot of light into the station, drawing visitors’ attention to Wilson’s colorful and imaginative images.

Some images show Coney Island’s long history as an entertainment destination, with its amusement parks and carnival-style “freak” shows.

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Others show delightful vintage shots of life in a beach town.

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I particularly loved this sweet image of children surrounding a float ring, possibly swimming in the ocean or lounging on the beach.

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Finally, there is a giant hot dog – the food most associated with Coney Island. In fact, you can visit the original location for Nathan’s Famous, which began selling hot dogs at Coney Island 100 years ago, in 1916, for only 5 cents each. Somehow this image doesn’t exactly fit with the style of the others, but it is still fun and part of Coney Island’s history. (Don’t expect a 5-cent hot dog from Nathan’s today though – the last time I checked the hot dogs ranged in price from $4.25 to $4.99, depending on toppings.)

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To get to the Coney Island/Stillwell Avenue Station, take the D, F, N, or Q train. The art is on the ground level.

Subway Station Art – Eastern Parkway/Brooklyn Museum Station

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The Eastern Parkway/Brooklyn Museum Station has some interesting art to explore, and you can do it without even swiping your fare card. On the station’s mezzanine level, there’s an intriguing collection of three-dimensional works stretched along the walls. Unlike the other subway station art installations I’ve featured, this station’s exhibition was not originally designed for its current location. Instead, The Eastern Parkway/Brooklyn Museum station features architectural details saved from demolished New York City buildings. The various pieces are part of the Brooklyn Museum’s collection.

Constructed of molded terra cotta, these pieces reflect popular architectural sensibilities in New York City in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. (If you explore the city today, you will discover buildings that still have these types of features as well.) Some of my favorite examples are those featuring faces, including some that remind me of gargoyles.

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There are some beautiful segments of borders and other details as well.

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Want to see this installation yourself? Take the 2 or 3 train to the Eastern Parkway/Brooklyn Museum station in Brooklyn. Remember, unlike most other New York City subway art installations, these pieces are not located on the platform level – you must go upstairs to the mezzanine to view this art.

Intrigued by New York City’s subway art? I’ve featured public art at other subway stations at these links: 8th Street Station, Prince Street Station, 28th Street Station, 23rd Street Station, Delancey Street Station, and 14th Street/8th Avenue Station.

Subway Station Art – 8th Street Station

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The 8th Street subway station in New York City, located near New York University, offers some great subway art. A series of 40 mosaics, designed by artist Tim Snell, are scattered along the platforms in both directions. Snell, a Canadian artist who is now based in New York City, was inspired by local street scenes. Collectively, the mosaics are titled Broadway Diaries.

Here are some of my favorite mosaics from Broadway Diaries.

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The 8th Street station also has some great vintage mosaic directional signs that are not part of Broadway Diaries.

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You will even see both styles together.

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You can get to the 8th Street subway station on either the R or the N trains. The station is located on Broadway, with entrances at 8th Street and Astor Place.

Views from the Roosevelt Island Tram

A great way to get a unique perspective of New York City is to take the Roosevelt Island Tram. The tram stretches from Manhattan’s Upper East Side to Roosevelt Island, which is located between the boroughs of Manhattan and Queens in the middle of the East River. Originally constructed in 1976, the Roosevelt Island Tram allowed commuters to travel between the island and Manhattan before the island’s subway station was completed. At that time, it was the first aerial tramway for commuters on the North American continent.

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During the four-to-five minute ride across the river, there’s a number of different viewpoints. The best views are on the side of the tram closest to the bridge, near the glass – especially if you want to take photos. Getting a good spot to take photos can be a little more difficult, but not impossible, if the tram is very crowded.

Because the tramway stretches alongside the Queensboro Bridge, there are some interesting views of some of the bridge details. (Even if the bridge is not as beautiful as some of the other New York City Bridges, such as the Brooklyn Bridge or the Manhattan Bridge. And even if there are spots on the tram window!)

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There’s the chance to take a photo of the other tram, passing by as it travels the opposite direction.

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If you look over the tops of the Manhattan buildings, you should catch a glimpse of the tops of the Chrysler Building and the Empire State Building in the distance.

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There’s a great view of the street below, if you watch for it, as well as some beautiful roof gardens and balconies.

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Of course, it’s impossible to miss the traffic!

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And there are definitely views of some of the water towers on top of buildings, another iconic image in New York City.

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Next to the tram station on Roosevelt Island, you will find the Queensboro Bridge Trolley Kiosk, a visitor center sponsored by the Roosevelt Island Historical Society. The Trolley Kiosk has information about the island’s history and landmarks, as well as some fun souvenirs.

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In order to ride the tram, visitors must purchase a Metrocard at any subway station or from a vending machine at one of the tram stations. A one-way ride costs $2.75, the same price as a ride on the subway or city bus. (You also must pay $1.00 for the card itself, but it can be reloaded over and over.) If you already have a weekly or monthly pass, it costs nothing extra to ride the tram. In Manhattan, you can catch the Roosevelt Island Tram at 59th Street and 2nd Avenue. On Roosevelt Island, the tram station is located right next to the Queensboro Bridge, a block away from the Roosevelt Island subway station, where you can catch the F train.

Subway Station Art – Prince Street Station

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I periodically feature some of the public art found in New York City subway stations, a part of the MTA Arts & Design initiative. Today’s post is about one of my favorite subway stations, the Prince Street station. The art at this station is small in scale and easy to miss if you aren’t looking for it, but the more you look, the more there is to discover. The art installation at Prince Street, created by Brooklyn artist Janet Zweig in collaboration with Edward del Rosario, is titled Carrying On. The installation is a frieze which stretches for a total of 1200 feet, including both sides of the platform. It includes 194 characters in all, made of waterjet-cut steel, slate, and marble.

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One of the reasons why this art installation is so special is because it is based on photographs the artist took of real New Yorkers. That foundation gives each figure authenticity – you may recognize scenes that you’ve seen on the streets yourself.

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Another reason why I love this particular art installation is related to Zweig’s own explanation of the title, Carrying On. Here is that description, as taken from the artist’s website:

The title, Carrying On, is a triple pun. People on the streets of New York are almost always carrying something, sometimes something huge and outlandish. After the 9/11 tragedy in New York, New Yorkers felt that they must carry on with their lives. (The frieze was begun just before 9/11 and finished three years later.) Finally, New Yorkers are notoriously opinionated and lively; they really do “carry on.”

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If you ride the New York City subways very often, or for that matter walk the streets for very long, you are likely to see people carrying around large objects. I enjoy finding those individuals in the frieze as well.

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How do you get to this frieze? Take the R or the N to the Prince Street Station. Half of the frieze is located on each platform, so you will have the opportunity to explore it regardless of which direction you are traveling.

Subway Station Art – 28th Street Station

If you don’t travel by subway when you’re in New York City, you’re missing out on some great public art. We recently explored the mosaic hats of the 23rd Street subway station, but the next stop going uptown, the 28th Street Station, also has mosaic murals. The 28th Street murals, titled City Dwellers, are by artist Mark Hadjipateras. These are fun, whimsical murals, guaranteed to please adults and children alike.

Here are some photos of the murals you will see if you visit the 28th Street station. Don’t these like like they belong in a children’s fantasy storybook?

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If you want to see these murals, take the R train to the 28th Street station. There are murals on both platforms, so it really doesn’t matter which direction you are traveling. Note: This isn’t the only 28th Street station in New York City – there is also one on the 1 Line, and another on the 6 Line. Those other stations do not have the murals.

Minding Your Manners at the Transit Museum Annex

Anyone who rides public transportation on a regular basis probably has their own list of pet peeves related to their fellow riders’ actions. So when I heard that the New York Transit Museum’s annex had a new exhibition about transit etiquette, I knew that I would likely identify with at least some of it. What I didn’t expect was how much I would enjoy the exhibit!

The Transit Museum Annex, located in Grand Central Terminal, is a small space. There’s really only room for one exhibition at a time, plus a store full of fun transit-themed gifts. At Christmas every year, the annex has a model train exhibition that we explored previously here. The current exhibition, Transit Etiquette Or: How I Learned to Stop Spitting and Step Aside in 25 Languages, is on display through July 2016. (And don’t forget, the Transit Museum Annex has free admission!)

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The Transit Etiquette exhibition consists of train etiquette posters from around the world. I’ve seen some of the New York posters before – some of them are on exhibit in the vintage trains on display at the transit museum, and the vintage holiday trains also have them throughout. The Subway Sun posters, as they were titled, got their start in New York City’s subway system in 1918 and continued until the mid-1960s, with a break from 1940 to 1946 because of World War II. What these posters really show is how the challenges subway riders face from rude fellow riders has not really changed in almost 100 years!

Here are a few of my favorites, created by Amelia Opdyke Jones, also known as “Oppy.” Oppy produced many of the most popular posters in the years following World War II. In fact, this first poster contains many of my greatest subway grievances all in one!

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One of the things that annoys me the most is someone “manspreading,” taking up more than one seat, when the subway is packed full of people. It was interesting to see that this must be a problem across the world. Here are some fun posters with that theme. The first photo shows two posters from SEPTA, the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania system. The second one shows another poster from the New York City subways. The third one is from the Tokyo train system. And the fourth one is from Translink, the system in Vancouver, British Columbia, in Canada. Portraying the “Lounge Lizard” who takes over an entire seat on the train, this one is my favorite!

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The store even has items that continue the “manspreading” theme, such as this coffee cup with the current New York City poster’s imagery.

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There are many more fun and interesting posters in the exhibition, but I thought I would end with this one, a 1962 New York City poster, from the Etti-cat.

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Having had this small taste of the Transit Etiquette exhibition, I know you’ll want to see it yourself! So how do you get to the Transit Museum Annex? The 4, 5, 6, 7, and S subway lines all stop at Grand Central Terminal, as do numerous buses. You can also take the Metro North Railroad. The New York Transit Museum Annex is located in the Grand Central’s Shuttle Passage.

Subway Station Art – 23rd Street Station

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At first glance, the public art at the 23rd Street Station seems a little unusual. You may fly by on the subway, noticing a series of small hats scattered along the walls of the station platform. But the mosaics at this station are worth a second glance. In fact, I encourage you to get off the train and wander along the platform, looking more closely at each of the hats. The art at this station is called “Memories of 23rd Street,” and the artist is Keith Godard. As you explore the station further, you will discover that each hat is associated with a famous person who lived in the Flatiron District of Manhattan, the neighborhood located above ground from the station.

Here are some of my favorite hats, either because of their design or the people they were associated with. There are many more hats to explore when you visit though! Each hat has identifying information located below it near the bottom of the wall.

This one was really interesting – it’s associated with actress Sarah Bernhardt.

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And this one’s physicist Marie Curie’s.

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There’s this hat belonging to Harriot Blatch, a famous American suffragist and daughter of suffragist Elizabeth Cady Stanton.

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And this one belonging to Eleanor Roosevelt. I love that she is identified as a humanitarian, rather than just being identified as first lady or President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s wife.

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The feathers on actress Lillie Langtry’s hat are pretty spectacular.

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And this is stunt person and journalist Nellie Bly’s hat.

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Here is famous artist Winslow Homer’s hat:

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This hat belonged to former fire commissioner, Robert Adamson.

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Here’s one for Samuel Gompers, the famous labor leader.

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And here’s a top hat for Phineas T. Barnum, museum owner and circus entrepreneur.

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This is an old fashioned policeman’s hat, belonging to Jake Harnett.

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And novelist Henry James’s rather crumpled looking hat.

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If you want to visit the station yourself, take the N, R (except late night), or Q (only late night) to 23rd Street. A note of caution – other lines (1, 4, 6,  C, and E) also have 23rd Street stations, but those stations are not the same one.

Subway Station Art – Delancey Street Station

The Delancey Street subway station, home to the F line on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, is host to some beautiful mosaic murals by Chinese artist Ming Fay.

Located on the Manhattan-bound side at the Delancey Street station is a large mural titled “Delancey Orchard,” which contains several cherry trees. At one time the Delancey family owned a farm in the area that contained a cherry orchard, and this mural commemorates that history.

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If you walk along the platform on the Manhattan-bound side, you will also see small cherry mosaics that continue the orchard theme.

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On the Brooklyn-bound side, there is a mural of fish called “Shad Crossing.” Shad are a type of fish in local waterways around New York City.

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That motif is continued on one of the stairwells connecting the platform to the subway station’s mezzanine.

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There are also these small fish mosaics along the Brooklyn-bound platform.

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If you want to see Ming Fay’s mosaic murals, you can take the F train to Delancey Street. That station also connects to the Essex Street station, which is accessible from the J or Z trains. If you are interested in Ming Fay’s work, you may also want to visit the Staten Island Ferry Terminal in Manhattan (the Whitehall Terminal), as he also designed the benches, a form of functional public art, in that terminal.

Subway Station Art – 14th Street/8th Avenue Station

New York City is home to countless examples of great public art, with many exhibitions located in subway stations. And this art is free to view – assuming that you are traveling by subway. I’ve always enjoyed glimpses of the mosaics and sculptures scattered throughout many of the subway stations in the city, but more recently I’ve started viewing the subway stations as a destination in themselves, miniature art museums, rather than just transportation hubs. As I’ve done so, I’ve been able to learn even more about the public art offerings in New York City.

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The 14th Street/8th Avenue Station is one such destination, containing a large collection of bronze sculptures by artist Tom Otterness, collectively titled “Life Underground.” Some of the sculptures are easy to find, but others require a little more effort. The more you explore the station, the more unique sculptures you will find – some in the most unexpected of places! Check high and low, behind and underneath. You’ll be rewarded for your explorations.

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I found this fun sculpture underneath the stairs on the A/C/E platform. Thankfully, they can’t really saw through the pillar!

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You may have heard the mythological accounts of alligators in the New York City sewers. There are several sculptures like this one, referencing that famous myth.

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Here are a few more examples of the sculptures located on the A/C/E platforms.

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The stairways and ramps between the mezzanine level and the L platform provide opportunities to discover additional sculptures, so make sure you explore all platforms and the mezzanine level in the station. One of my favorite pieces is this one, hanging above the ramp to the L platform. Here’s both the full view and a close-up of that sculpture.

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Here are two more sculptures from the L platform, although there are still many more for you to discover if you visit!

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Want to see these intriguing sculptures for yourself? You can reach the 14th Street/8th Avenue Station on the A, C, E, and L trains. Once you’re done touring the station, Chelsea Market and the High Line are close by, as well as the NYC neighborhoods of Chelsea and the Meatpacking District.