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Inside the Ride

Discover the places where art and transit meet


Art allows us to cross divides, find common ground and build bridges. It delivers joy yet offers solitude. It’s very personal but can be displayed publicly for all to enjoy. The integration of art into transit is intentional yet unexpected. Naturally, art can be found in the most typical places: galleries, museums and corporate lobbies. But why is art incorporated into transit facilities such as bus stops and rail stations?

Artist Mary Lucking

According to local artist Mary Lucking, public art creates opportunities for a connection with the places we live. Lucking was the designer of the public art featured at the Central/Indian School light rail station and is putting the final touches on her masterpiece at the new Mesa Drive station on the Central Mesa extension.

“Making those spaces feel more humane, comfortable, interesting and beautiful helps make people’s transit experience better,” said Lucking.

According to About.com, the arts have been used as a way to express, communicate and heal for thousands of years so it makes sense to add art into the community.

Mary Shindell

Take note of the public art located at each of the 28 light rail stations along the initial 20-mile line. Design of the unique treatments was themed according to the neighborhoods served by the station. Public art along light rail recognizes place and community. Each station represents the culture where it exists and riders enjoy a station “gallery” while waiting to board or upon arrival of a destination.

Visual artist Mary Shindell is crafting work for the traction power substations along the extensions in Central Mesa and Northwest Phoenix. She stepped into public art in 2006 designing a terrazzo floor for the city of Phoenix. The experience was so rich that she began looking for other opportunities to expand her portfolio. Her artwork will grace the power stations tucked along the expanded light rail line, giving neighborhoods an extra oomph.

Purposeful art adds beauty to local streets

Mesa Oasis Bus Stop

Bus stops across the Valley also incorporate art and creative flair. Traveling down busy streets, the bus shelters pop out as eye candy among the strip malls and corporate centers. Have you spotted the Mesa Oasis at Alma School and Southern? Artist Joe Tyler was inspired to design a shelter after a Victorian bird cage. Check out the unique structure that is 20-feet tall made of steel and copper. Artistic bus shelters exist in every corner of the Valley, some tucked away just waiting to be discovered and others proudly display their unique character along busy byways.

Let it be said that we can place ourselves into the art when we step inside the design. Beyond imaginative, playful transit stations and shelters, art is also an important part of Valley Metro’s transit education and community outreach efforts.

The bus and train as a canvas

While a driver’s license is still a rite of passage for many 16-year olds, there is a subtle shift in the acceptance of using public transit. Local high school students have shared their creative expressions on a Valley Metro bus “canvas” for 14 years and most recently on light rail for the past two years. The message of transit as part of a healthy, thoughtful lifestyle becomes stronger and more relevant with each annual design competition. The Design-a-Transit Wrap contest earlier this year was effective in capturing the attention of more than 120 students who wanted to create a design that would demonstrate transit’s artistic side while offering a social message.

Earlier this year, the bus and light rail design was unveiled with the theme Ride On encompassing a design with the message that transit is for all people. Well said. Transit can be beneficial for those who never even climb aboard.

Ride On Bus Wrap

Third graders also see the value in riding to their favorite places on a bus or train. They can show their enthusiasm by designing art for a calendar page about the benefits of transit. A team of judges selects top winners and best of show designs among hundreds of endearing entries. Any school, public or private, can enter and be a part of the Cool Transit STUFF annual calendar that takes place at the beginning of each school year for the following year’s calendar.

Students can fuel their excitement for transit by taking a family trip to the park, zoo or a baseball game. It’s right up their alley because kids are always the first to remind adults that we can be better caretakers of Mother Earth by walking, riding bikes and using the bus or train.

The bottom line is that Valley Metro wants to connect to all cultures and generations who are choosing to use transit. Incorporating art into transit is no coincidence.

Now that we’ve got you in the mood for art…take a peek at the Arts & Culture Guide. It’s intended to offer full disclosure of the places to go by rail to get your art fix. Discover the places where art exists and enjoy the work behind the paint, concrete and steel that bind us together as a community. Now go explore the color that art in transit adds to our lives.

Tempe Art Bridge

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