Stained Glass on the Subway

As the MTA rehabilitates subway and train stations across the city, about 1% of its annual budget is allotted for installing permanent art installations intended to “raise the quality of the ride.” It’s a fantastic program that means you could enter the 4-Train station at 167th St & Jerome in the Bronx…

167th - Station

…and see this design by Carol Sun brightening up the corridor, a very nice surprise when scouting on gray winter days.

167th - Stained Glass

167th - Stained Glass Close

Or, if you’re one stop down at Jerome & 170th Street (Bronx)…

170th @ Jerome - Station

…you’ll see this by artist Dina Bursztyn (note what I think are black crows along the lower ring in the left-hand piece)…

170th @ Jerome - Glass 1

…and this…

170th @ Jerome - Glass 2

…and this.

170th @ Jerome - Glass 3

170th @ Jerome - Glass 4

It’s pretty easy for subway commuters to take this type of thing for granted, myself very much included, but I think we can all agree that these do substantially raise the quality of the our ride.

For anyone who has ever wondered about an installation at a particular stop or wanted to find out what you’ve missed in your daily rush, the MTA’s Arts for Transit site is an incredibly helpful resource in which you can look up stations by line, see photos of installations, and read explanations for the works.

Not only did I find many, many pieces that I’ve personally missed in my own travels, the explanations are really useful for fully appreciating such amazing works as the eerie (and somewhat subversive) Penn Station wall murals, the Alice in Wonderland mosaics at 50th Street, the floating hat mosaics at 23rd Street, and my two personal favorites (photos courtesy the MTA and Flickr friends), the underwater mosaics at Houston St

Houston - Underwater2

Houston - Underwater1

…and the brilliant installations at the Natural History Museum/81st Street Stop, if for no better reason than the T-Rex wall fossil…

81st street station

…the layers of the Earth’s crust…

subway_mosaic1.jpg

…the underwater mosaic as you descend the steps…

Natural History Museum 1

…and the mosaic animals coupled with outlines of extinct relatives in gray.

Natural History Museum 2

Doesn’t really matter what borough you’re in, I have yet to visit any city with subway stations as great as New York’s. Seeing stained glass at a Bronx subway station on a cold winter day can drive that home.

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12 comments

  1. Cool, thanks for sharing 🙂

    The mosaics at Tottenham Court Road tube station in London are also fantastic. The atmosphere in that station is amazing because the mosaics are everywhere:

    http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Tottenham_Court_Road_tube_Mosaic.jpg

    Of course it’s also a ridiculously crowded station at a junction with Oxford Street, so it’s tough to stand still or wander around to explore the mosaics.

  2. Well I might agree that NYC’s subways are artistic. But I know that there are some pretty ones in the Paris Metro and London’s Underground has some pretty ones. Have not been there in over 30 years. And though I have never been there I understand the the subways in Moscow are among the greatest in the world for art.

    Mike

  3. Hi there. New to your blog and love seeing different parts of the city through another’s eyes. You’ll also find stained glass (though not as pretty, in my opinion) at the Franklin Avenue station in Brooklyn.

    there’s a good image of it here: http://www.bridgeandtunnelclub.com/bigmap/brooklyn/prospectheights/franklinavenueshuttle/index.htm

  4. The Tom Otterness sculptures at the 14th St. Blue Line stop make me feel like an 8 year old high on sugar every time I’m in the station.
    They’re all over Flickr:
    http://flickr.com/search/?q=tom%20otterness%20subway%20new%20york&w=all
    And the New York Times has a video interview with the artist:
    http://video.nytimes.com/video/2005/11/23/arts/1194817108604/tom-otterness-subway-installations.html
    Thanks for reminding me of these while I’m away from the city this winter.

  5. WOW! How does one get anywhere with beautiful art surrounding them everyday- They must live in their heads to not stop, ponder and appreciate- i LOVE that such a huge city is so rich with visual art at nearly every turn. Beautiful!! Your shots are just amazing!

  6. As 2 mike said, the subway in Moscow is ridiculously ornate. I think I also remember seeing some impressive stations in a documentary about North Korea?

  7. How do they keep someone from throwing a rock through one of the pieces of stained glass?

  8. yeah, i’ll add another voice in support of russian subways. both moscow and st. petersburg have some incredibly impressive stations. lots of mosaics, marble, chandeliers, sculpture and so on. it’s really shocking, some of it.
    (but yes, i’m glad NYC has a growing stock of it as well!)

  9. Thanks for these — how magical to find such amazing imagery in a regular/daily kind of place. Alas, if only LA could get it’s subway act together…

  10. I LOVE the 1% for art program!

    Great photos. There is a whole series of stained-glass subway art along the 7 line in Queens. I’ve lived on the upper west side for a couple decades, but never knew how much there was at the 81st St./CPW stop (though in all fairness, I live along the 1 line).

  11. Gorgeous. I must have missed a lot because I walked so much in NY!

  12. I love that turtle mosaic, it’s got so much depth.

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