Pieces for Peace: A 2005 CITYarts Mural

On the north side of Manhattan the Jacob H. Schiff Playground, part of the NYC Parks system, is host to a special mural. Titled Pieces for Peace, the mural was created by artist Peter Sis with the help of community volunteers in 2005. I spotted the mural quite some time ago, but there are usually soccer players practicing – or even games – on the weekends when I have the chance to walk by. Finally I had the chance one day to edge my way around the soccer field to see the mural up close, and it was certainly worth my efforts.

Here are a few glimpses of the mural’s details. Time has dulled the mosaic tiles in some places, but the message of diversity still shines through.

If you’d like to see the mural yourself, the Jacob H. Schiff Playground is located on Amsterdam Avenue in northeastern Manhattan, between 136th and 138th Streets.

Subway Station Art: Christopher Street Station

It’s been quite some time since I last featured some of New York City’s wonderful subway art, so I thought I thought I would show you the mosaics at the Christopher Street station today. These twelve mosaics, collectively known as “The Greenwich Village Murals,” show some of the interesting and diverse history of the Greenwich Village neighborhood surrounding this station. They were created by ceramic artist Lee Grozwol, in collaboration with fifth and six grade students from a local school (Public School 41).

The murals are divided into four sets of three murals each, with the following subtitles: Bohemians, Founders, Providers, and Rebels. There is a key for each set of murals on the wall nearby, helping visitors to identify each person featured in the murals.

For example, here are the Founders:

And here is the key for that set of murals:

Here are the Providers:

Here are the Bohemians:

And finally, here are the Rebels.

Want to see these wonderful mosaic murals in person? Take the 1 train to the Christopher Street station. There are different panels on each platform, so you will have to switch sides to see them all.

Subway Station Art: Lexington Avenue-63rd Street Station

I’ve written before about the Second Avenue subway line, which opened for the first time on January 1 of this year. Each of the three new stations has unique public art. (I wrote about those stations here, here, and here.) The new subway line connects with the rest of the system at the Lexington Avenue-63rd Street Station. When the new platform was added at that station, a new entrance was added as well at 3rd Avenue and 63rd Street. MTA Arts & Design added art on three levels: first, on the platform level next to the elevators from the platform to the mezzanine; second, on the mezzanine level; and third, at the street level. All of the art celebrates the old elevated train line that was demolished in 1942.

First, the platform level. There’s a semi-transparent set of panels separating the elevator area from one end of the track. Superimposed upon those panels are stylized photographs of the old elevated train line.

On the mezzanine level is my favorite art at this station, artist Jean Shin’s installation, Elevated. Shin’s work on this level focuses on the people in the neighborhood who would have been the elevated train’s riders before its demolition.

Finally, at the street level are more of Shin’s mosaics – these showing the girders that held up the old elevated line’s tracks being torn down.

If you’d like to see this subway station art for yourself, you can take the F or Q to the Lexington Avenue-63rd Street station. Make sure you enter or exist from the 3rd Avenue entrance/exit, as the Lexington Avenue entrance/exit does not provide access to this art.

Subway Station Art: 125th Street Station

One of my favorite subway stations, in terms of art, is the 125th Street Station in Harlem. Artist Faith Ringgold’s mosaic murals, titled Flying Home: Harlem Heroes and Heroines, draws from the neighborhoods rich history and culture of her birthplace. The art is colorful and distinctive – there’s no chance that you will think you are anywhere other than Harlem.

Each section of the murals has an image of an iconic example of Harlem architecture (some no longer in existence), as well as historical figures associated with Harlem’s African-American history. For example, here’s the famous Apollo Theater, with images of Dinah Washington, Florence Mills, Ralph Cooper, Billie Holliday, and the Ink Spots.

Upon closer inspection, the murals details are spectacular.

This next one includes the Cotton Club, a nightclub from the 1920s and 1930s, as well as performers Josephine Baker, Duke Ellington, and Bessie Smith, who performed at the Cotton Club regularly. (I learned in my research that the establishment unfortunately illustrated the highly segregated society of that era – although African-Americans performed at the venue, only whites were allowed in as customers.)

Here’s the Harlem Opera House, with soprano Mariam Anderson and singer and actor Paul Robeson.

And Yankee Stadium, with boxers Joe Lewis and Sugar Ray Robinson overhead.

Here’s Madame Walker’s Beauty Parlor, with Madame C.J. Walker hovering over it herself, next to Olympian Jesse Owens. Notably, Owens appears to be jumping out of Berlin’s Olympic Stadium.

Marcus Garvey and Adam Clay Powell, Jr. float over the Abyssinian Baptist Church.

And Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X rise above the Theresa Hotel, at one time known as the “Waldorf of Harlem.”

Here’s W.E.B. DuBois and Mary McLeod Bethune, associated with organizations they founded –  the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (N.A.A.C.P.), and the National Council of Negro Women (N.C.N.W.).

Above the Schomburg Library, a New York Public Library Center devoted to the study of African-American history, literature, and culture, you’ll find writers Countee Cullen, Langston Hughes, James Baldwin, and Zora Neale Hurston.

And Augusta Savage, Jacob Lawrence, Romare Bearden, Norman Lewis, and Aaron Douglas keep the Studio Museum of Harlem company.

Finally, you’ll find tile work related to the station itself, including the historic 125th Street terra cotta station signs and trim, as well as a rather out-of-place modern mosaic and tile sign.

If you’d like to see Flying Home in person, take the 2 or 3 train to the 125th Street Station in Manhattan.

Subway Station Art: The New Second Avenue-96th Street Station

A few weeks ago I wrote a couple of posts about some of the art on the new Second Avenue subway line (found here and here). Today, I want to introduce you to the installation at another Second Avenue station: artist Sarah Sze’s Blueprint for a Landscape, found at the 96th Street Station. A resident of New York City, Sarah Sze is also a professor at Columbia University’s School of the Arts. Blueprint for a Landscape consists of a series of blue and white images, with different images for each of the station’s entrances. The color and style of the images draws inspiration from architectural blueprints. The themes include things commonly seen across New York City: sheets of paper blowing in the wind, scaffolding, trees and other landscaping, and birds.

The 96th Street station art is very different from that at the other stations, but still very interesting – particularly for those who have architectural interests. Here are some examples of what you will see if you visit the station.

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To see the art at the 96th Street station for yourself, take the Q train uptown to the end of the line.

Subway Station Art: The New Second Avenue Line (Part II)

I’ve already written one post about the amazing new subway art at the 72nd Street subway station, which you can find here. Now, here is the second post in the series I’m writing about the new Second Avenue line’s incredible art installations. This time, let’s explore artist Chuck Close’s mosaic glass and ceramic tile series, known as Subway Portraits, which is located at the 86th Street station. Similar to the themes of the 72nd Street station’s art, Close’s oversized portraits reflect the diversity of New York City’s residents. At the same time, the artist also explores a variety of different techniques to portray each person. This station is another treat for those interested in the city’s public art.

Here are photographs of some of my favorite portraits from this station, as well as a few close-up photos showing some of the techniques Close used in creating them. I hope you enjoy!

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Want to see Subway Portraits for yourself? Take the Q train to the 86th Street station on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. Portraits are located along the mezzanine level, as well as the areas extending from the mezzanine to each subway station entrance.

Subway Station Art: The New Second Avenue Line (Part I)

The New York City subway system doesn’t add new stations very often, but many New Yorkers have been eagerly awaiting the opening of the new Second Avenue subway line. The line, which for now only consists of three stations, has been on the drawing board for more than 100 years. It officially opened on January 1, 2017, and has increased access to Manhattan’s Upper East Side.

One exciting benefit of the opening of these three new stations is some new offerings in subway art as well. Each station is unique, and I plan to offer a tour of each one in the upcoming days. Our first tour is of the art installation at the 72nd Street station. Titled Perfect Strangers, the more than three dozen glass mosaic images by Vic Muniz celebrate the diversity of the people who live and work in the neighborhood that surrounds this subway station. As there is ongoing debate about the American president’s immigration policy, New Yorkers have stood united in the fact that we value diversity and treasure our immigrant friends, family, and neighbors. This weekend in particular, I thought that writing about artwork that emphasizes those positive values was important.

Here are some of my favorite parts of this installation. I’ve also added a few close-up views to give you a sense of the magnificent detail work. I’d love to include photos of them all, but that would make for a very long post! The glass tiles reflect a lot of light, making the images challenging to photograph.

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As you look down the stairs towards the platform, you may also spy the words, “E Pluribus Unum.” The motto of the United States, this Latin phrase means “Out of many, one.”

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If you’d like to see Perfect Strangers for yourself, take the Q train to 72nd Street. Most of the figures are located on the mezzanine level, but keep a sharp lookout in the areas between the street level and the mezzanine – there are more figures on every level, and tucked around a few corners as well!

Subway Station Art: 50th Street Station

In some ways, the 50th Street subway station is a little shabby, but if you look closer the station is home to some treasures. There are four glass mosaic murals, titled Alice: The Way Out, by Argentinian-born New York City artist Liliana Porter. If you are a fan of the classic children’s novel Alice in Wonderland you will appreciate these murals.

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There are also other subway tiles reflecting the influence of different eras in this subway station’s history, including the vintage terra cotta tile station sign and the more modern ceramic tile destination signs.

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If you would like to see these murals for yourself, the 50th Street Station is serviced by the 1 train.

Subway Station Art: 66th Street-Lincoln Center Station

One of my favorite subway stations in Manhattan is the 66th Street-Lincoln Center Station because of the beautiful glass tile mosaics spanning the walls along the train platform. Created by long-time New York City resident and artist Nancy Spero, the installation is titled Artemis, Acrobats, Divas and Dancers. Visitors can clearly see how the nearby Lincoln Center for the Arts inspired Spero’s art.

Here’s the description of the installation, originally found on MTA Arts & Design’s website:

This series of 22 brilliantly colored glass mosaic panels lines the walls of the station and bows to Lincoln Center’s opera, ballet, and classical music halls – and the vibrant, artistic character of the Upper West Side neighborhood. Spero conveys this through the use of iconic images of women both real and mythical, from such varied sources as archaeology, architecture, mythology and the contemporary world.

In Artemis, Acrobats, Divas, and Dancers, the central icon of opera, the Diva, is repeated in various forms that lead and follow riders through the station, giving the illusion of movement and change. Elsewhere, Spero represents scenes from the subway and the city outside, the architectural backgrounds enlivened by musicians performing and athletes running, signaling you are in a creative and energetic place, the Upper West Side of Manhattan.

Here are some of my favorite images from the Artemis, Acrobats, Divas and Dancers installation. (There are numerous more images as well, which you can discover yourself if you visit the station!) As you can see below, the diversity of images and artistic styles makes this subway station art delightful.

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If you wish to see this subway art for yourself, take the 1 train to 66th Street-Lincoln Center Station on the Upper West Side. The mosaics are different on each platform, so make sure you check out both sides!

Subway Station Art: Houston Street Station

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Many New Yorkers (and visitors to NYC) rarely travel on the 1 train in the lower part of Manhattan, but there are some real treats on that line for those seeking subway station art. One of my favorite stations is the Houston Street station, home to artist Deborah Brown’s mosaics titled Platform Diving. I love the name of this installation. It plays off of two very different ideas that share common language. On the one hand, the installation stretches along a subway station platform, and it includes platform and subway car images. But platform diving is also an aquatic sport, and the mosaics show these subway station images underwater, with sea creatures floating through the scenes. The blues and greens of the glass tiles create a series of 7 beautiful, serene murals that are worth taking a detour to the station solely to see the art.

Here are some photos of the mosaics. The photos give you a sense of what makes this installation so appealing, but the mosaics are even more special if you get the opportunity to see them in person.

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The station also has some good examples of the vintage mosaic tilework that set each station apart during the early decades of the subway system’s existence. In addition to the “Houston” signs featured in the first photo in this post, you can also find these details.

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Want to see the Houston Street station subway station’s art for yourself? Regardless of which way you are traveling on the 1 train, you can see part of the installation. The southbound platform is host to 4 of the Platform Diving murals, and the other 3 are located on the northbound platform.