FAQ’s

What does MTA Arts for Transit and Urban Design do?
Since 1985, we have commissioned over 250 permanent art installations for the more than 8.5 million people who use the New York City Subway, Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North Railroad each day. The reach of this New York public art program spans over 5,000 square miles. We produce art posters, art cards, photography and live musical performances in stations. We also play a role in design. We influence everything from station gates, windscreens, plazas and architecture to vending machines, help points and subway car design. We currently have more than 50 amazing new projects in the works and can’t wait to unveil them!

Is there a program philosophy?
A hallmark of our permanent public art program is that it links the place where it is located with the people who come there, making connections between sites, neighborhoods, and people.

What’s in the works?
Construction of new stations and facilities (Second Avenue, 7 West Extension, Fulton Street Transit Center, East Side Access, etc.) in the growing system means there will be new art including monumental works by Xenobia Bailey, James Carpenter, Jean Shin, Shinique Smith and Sarah Sze to name a few.

How is art selected?
AFT uses a competitive selection panel process with arts professionals who are familiar with the community. Artists are chosen through a competitive open call or on occasion, an invitational process. Every Call for Images is posted on our website which also lists submittal requirements. After a review of past work, the selection panel selects finalists who receive a modest stipend to produce a site-specific proposal. One proposal is then chosen by the panel at its second meeting. Please visitwww.mta.info/art for more information and submittal requirements.

Why do certain transit stations get art?
The MTA Capital Program sets out which stations are being rehabilitated or constructed. The construction funding includes an allocation of up to 1% of a portion of construction costs for permanent art.

Naming names – who’s who in the collection?
Our roster of commissioned artists has more than 300 world-famous, mid-career and emerging artists including: Vito Acconci Romare Bearden, Mel Chin, Beatrice Coron, Ellen Harvey, Al Held, Jacob Lawrence, Roy Lichtenstein, Joan Lindner, Jason Middlebrook, Elizabeth Murray, Takayo Noda, Odili Odita, Liliana Porter, Duke Riley, Faith Ringgold, Alyson Shotz, Peter Sis, Nancy Spero, Doug and Mike Starn, Mary Temple, and Robert Wilson.

What connects such a wide-ranging art collection?
What binds the roster and art together is the ability to create work for a diverse audience, on the move, in unexpected places, that resonates with the viewer each time they see it. AFT’s collection of work is also created using the materials of the system – glass and ceramic mosaic, tile, bronze, steel and glass. Artists’ proposals are interpreted by fabricators in the chosen medium and fabricated across the US and beyond (Louisiana, Illinois, Minnesota, Kentucky, New York, Mexico, Germany, and Italy, etc.).

Another major consideration is durability – fragile and delicate art does not work in a 24/7 environment with heavy foot traffic. Installations must be hard-wearing and easy to maintain.

What are Art Posters and where can I see them?
We commission up to 6 eye-popping posters each year. They are displayed in our 468 subway stations and in the subway cars (look for the long Art Cards above the seats). Check out new ones by artists R. Gregory Christie and Sophie Blackall. We are always on the look-out for new artists and illustrators.

Are they for sale?
You can purchase Posters and Art Cards at the New York Transit Museum stores (www.transitmuseumstore.com). A portion of revenue generated from sales goes to support the Transit Museum exhibition and education programs.

What are Light Boxes and where can I see them?
AFT’s Light Box exhibitions primarily showcase the work of New York-based photographers in key locations. The large-scale images (approx. 45 X 66 inches) are illuminated from within and printed on duratrans film by local providers who donate their services.

Light Boxes are located at four key sites: Grand Central Terminal Dining Concourse, 42nd - Street Bryant Park (B, C, F, M), Bowling Green (4, 5) and Atlantic Avenue (2, 3, 4, 5, B, D, M, N, Q, LIRR).

Exhibitions rotate approximately every 12-16 months and a range of photographic work is represented through this ever-changing venue.

Exhibitions have included thematic work as well as portraits and landscape by photographers like Saul Leiter, Lynn Saville, Boris Klapwald and Jeff Chien-Hsing Liao. AFT selects artists for themed shows, and finds additional artists through an open call process. For more information, please visit http://mta.info/art.

Does AFT present all music in the stations?
No, but we present more than 7,000 performances in subway and rail stations each year. More than 200 soloists and ensembles participate in the Music Under New York (MUNY) program, providing over 150 weekly performances at 25 locations throughout the transit system. The MUNY roster includes a range of diverse acts who perform 365 days a year including classical violinists, Cajun cellists, Dixieland jazz ensembles, bluesmen, Latin guitarists, xylophonists, opera and folk singers.

Auditions are open to the public and are held in Grand Central Terminal each May to review and add new performers to the MUNY roster. A panel of professionals, consisting of representatives from the music industry, cultural institutions, MTA station operations, fellow musicians and others, judge each of the five minute performances based on the criteria of quality, variety, and appropriateness for the mass transit environment. All performers are welcome to apply for the audition.

If you would like information about the MUNY program, please visit mta.info/art or contact: Lydia Bradshaw, Manager, MTA Arts for Transit and Music Under New York at (212) 878-7225

Need more information?
General inquiries may be sent to: artsfortransit@mtahq.org.