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Stationed in Los Angeles


By Hugh Hart

Published Oct 1, 2014 8:00 AM

Metro terminals across the city offer some of the best viewing of public art, much of it created by Bruins.


Union Station, City of Dreams/River of History, Richard Wyatt in collaboration with May Sun, Artists. Courtesy of Metro (Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority).

Dozens of artworks created by UCLA alumni dot the L.A. cityscape beyond museum walls. And the price of admission to view these works is just $1.75 — the price of an MTA bus or train fare. Metro public transit riders see an array of public art that is steeped in local lore. Commissioned by the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s Metro Art program, the works reflect the histories and personalities of the city’s sprawling network of neighborhoods.

“It’s all about transforming the customer experience,” says Maya Emsden, who heads up Metro Art & Design, “because you’re not just about going from point A to point B. You also spend time waiting. The stations are heavily engineered spaces that can be pretty sterile, so we try to give each one an element of vibrancy. Southern California is a major arts capital of the world, so of course we’ve got to leverage that incredible resource and make those stations our own.”

Emsden, who joined Metro Art in 1991, encourages a wide range of artistic styles. “Not everything is seen through my singular curatorial vision,” she says. “We might have a curator from a Long Beach museum joining an artist from Venice and an arts professional in East L.A., all sitting on a panel to select an artist.”

And many of those selected have been Bruin alumni, who also sometimes sit on selection panels and serve as curators. The following pages take a look at five of them and their handiwork that’s on view from the San Fernando Valley to the Pacific Ocean.