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.

Subway Station Art – American Museum of Natural History

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Sometimes a museum may be your ultimate destination, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the journey. That’s definitely the case with the American Museum of Natural History, located on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. If you travel to the museum by train, you will experience an additional treat – subway art with a natural history theme. The 81st Street-Museum of Natural History subway station is filled with mosaics of various animals and insects, floor tiles with various prehistoric native symbols and sea creatures, and replicas of fossilized bones. Titled For Want of a Nail, the subway art installation is meant to represent the evolution of life.

You’ll find the glass tile mosaics on the northbound platform level and as you enter and exit the subway station. (There are multiple entrances to this subway station, and each one has unique mosaics.) Here are a few of my favorites:

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To reach the southbound level, you descend another set of stairs to the lower level. Here, there is a beautiful ceramic tile mosaic of the planets and constellations.

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There is also the bronze replicas of fossilized bones, guaranteed to intrigue dinosaur hunters young and old (and inviting visitors to touch as well!)

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How do you get the the 81st Street-Museum of Natural History Station? Depending on the time of day, you can take either the B train or C train. Verify train times on the MTA website, where you can also plan trips to and from specific addresses, landmarks, and subway stations. This is definitely a subway station not to be missed!

New York Transit Museum

I make no secret of my love of New York City’s public transportation system, which is why I recently had to visit the New York Transit Museum. Part of what makes the museum such a fun place to visit is its location – it’s in a retired subway station in downtown Brooklyn. Here’s the museum entrance. Doesn’t it look promising already?

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Once you go below ground, you pay for admission at a vintage station master’s booth before entering the first exhibit. Most of the museum’s exhibits are on the mezzanine level of the historic station. The first exhibit was a fascinating one: “Steel, Stone, and Backbone: Building New York’s Subways, 1900-1925.” I gained a new appreciation for the hard work and sacrifices that went into creating the New York City subway system, as well as the technological challenges and risk to human life. Every time I go through one of the tunnels under the East River now, I remember the exhibit’s explanation of the compressed air chambers used during the construction process.

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The exhibit also does a good job of exploring the diverse people who contributed to the subway system’s construction – men and women, immigrants and African Americans among them.

There is also a new exhibit called “Bringing Back the City,” which explores how the transit system has been affected by and responded to times of crisis. There are artifacts related to the September 11 attacks;  the 2003 power blackout in the Northeastern United States, which temporarily shut down the subway system and left riders stranded; Hurricane Irene is 2011; and Superstorm Sandy in October 2012. Among the exhibit artifacts, I was struck by this flood bench example. I’ve seen flood benches at numerous locations near the subways, but never knew their purpose or origins. The benches, both practical and sculptural, let air travel into subway vents but prevent rainwater from flooding the subway system.

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There are many interactive exhibits for children (and interesting for adults as well). Here are examples of turnstiles (still working) from every period in the subway system’s history.

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Visitors can step into a station master’s booth, pretending to help subway riders.

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In the exhibit, “On the Streets: New York’s Trolleys and Buses,” visitors can sit in the driver’s seat and pretend to drive models of city buses.

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Once you finish the exhibits located on the mezzanine level, head down the stairs to the track level. Although the station is no longer active, the tracks are still there – and full of vintage train cars. (The MTA has a number of these vintage cars, which are sometimes used for special events. I wrote previously about the vintage train rides offered each December before Christmas.) If you’re a fan of vintage trains or simply someone who likes public transportation like me, you will enjoy seeing the train cars. Both car exteriors and interiors are very different from the subway cars in use today, and the vintage advertising is fun to read as well. The museum also offers a highlights tour on the weekends, which includes the subway cars. You will notice one of those gallery talks in progress in the photos below.

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What’s the best way to get to the New York Transit Museum? By subway, of course! Take the 2, 3, 4, or 5 trains to Borough Hall; the R to Court Street; the A, F, and R to Jay Street-MetroTech (and the C as well, during weekday rush hours only); or the A or G to Hoyt Street-Schermerhorn Street.

Model Trains at Grand Central Terminal

It’s that time of year when the New York Transit Museum‘s annex at Grand Central Terminal once again hosts its holiday train show. Free to the public, the model train exhibit features scale models of Grand Central Terminal, the Met Life Building, and the Chrysler Building, as well as numerous other buildings and small details. It’s not a huge exhibit, but children and model train aficionados will still enjoy it. The train show will be on display until February 21, 2016.

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Unsurprisingly, my favorite part of the exhibit is the part related to the MTA system, specifically the subway train and the elevated train station.

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An additional benefit to the train show’s location: it’s in the New York Transit Museum’s store, where there are all kinds of train and subway-themed options for holiday gifts. And if you go before Christmas, make sure you stop by the Grand Central Holiday Fair as well – I’ve previously wrote about the Holiday Fair here.

How can you get here? The 4, 5, 6, 7, and S subway lines all stop at Grand Central, as do numerous buses. You can also take the Metro North Railroad. The New York Transit Museum annex and store is located in Shuttle Passage.

Traveling Back in Time: Vintage Subway Ride

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If you read Finding NYC on a regular basis, you know I’m a fan of public transportation. So when I heard that MTA was running vintage subway trains every Sunday during December, I was first in line to check it out. The trains are made up of R1/9 subway cars; the car I rode was an R6. (From my research, I’ve discovered that R6 cars were built in 1935 and 1936. Some remained in regular service until the 1970s.)

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The outside of the cars sets the tone for for the experience. They are riveted metal, painted dark green with “City of New York” stenciled in gold. It was fun pulling up to each station and watching the reactions of people who were waiting for the train. You could always tell when people had no advance warning that the vintage trains were running because of the surprised looks on their faces.

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There are many aspects that make riding in these vintage subway cars very different than the usual subway riders’ experience today. The overhead light bulbs would occasionally flicker, and ceiling fans kept the air circulating throughout the car. The seats had cushions filled with springs, making for a slightly bouncy ride. Vintage advertising stretched overhead – although the form is similar to what riders still see today, the content reflected days gone by. Another reminder that times have changed: the vintage subway cars have no intercom system, and subway workers stepped out on the platform each stop to announce, “This is the M Train to Queens Plaza! M Train to Queens Plaza!”

Here’s one of the route signs for the vintage subway train – it’s not correct, as the train started at the 2nd Street F Station, not the Houston-2nd Avenue Station, and it ended at the Queens Plaza Station, not Forest Hills.

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There were quite a variety of riders, from those who hadn’t known that vintage trains were riding but still hopped on when they had the opportunity, to families with children and train aficionados. I also saw a couple of young women dressed in vintage outfits, like this one here.

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If you have the chance to ride one of the vintage trains, I definitely recommend it. The ride was a lot of fun, and it costs the same as any other subway ride in New York City – $2.75. The MTA website has the list of departure times and stops. (It also mentions the vintage buses that are serving the M42 route on certain days this month!)