Arts & Entertainment

Come for the ride, stay for the art on the Expo Line extension

This is one of the roughly 100 pieces of new art that riders will find along the new Expo Line extension.
This is one of the roughly 100 pieces of new art that riders will find along the new Expo Line extension.
LA Metro

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When the Expo Line extension opens Friday, some riders will have a plan of what to do, an idea of how to act on the train, and possibly goals of where to eat or what to see. Others will only want to hitch a ride to the beach that awaits.

But before anyone reaches his or her stop of choice, all riders will get a chance to visually soak in some art. The L.A. Metro art program has transformed the Expo Line ride to Santa Monica into a art gallery tour of sorts, with roughly 100 pieces of work from artists featured at each of the extension's seven stations.

“We believe in the power of art to make the journey more pleasurable for transit riders, and we feel very strongly that people will be drawn to take transit because we’re creating this environment that’s very welcoming," said Heidi Zeller, creative services director for the L.A. Metro art program.

The works on display at the Expo Line extension's stations are the creation of seven artists chosen by a community-based panel of artists, arts professionals and community members who have relationships to the area, Zeller said, adding that the process actually started four years ago.

Each artist was asked to work in the medium of his or her preference, so painters painted and drawers drew. Photographs were taken of the finished works, then hi-resolution scans were sent to highly specialized fabricators, who then transitioned the imagery into works that can withstand the elemental nature of transit space for a long period of time, Zeller said.

Materials such as glass, ceramics and even steel were used. Finally, the pieces were placed with maximum visibility in mind, whether riders are waiting for the train or already on it.

The art itself is as diverse as the riders on the train, as Zeller describes it. One artist took several helicopter trips to gather photographs she eventually turned into color-pencil cityscapes.

"Sometimes you feel like you're hovering above somebody's back yard," Zeller said.

Aside from aesthetic purposes, Zeller also said the artwork can actually open up the world of transit to people who don't normally take it. 

"Art is often the gateway to taking transit for people," she said. "We actually lead a series of tours throughout our system, and most of the people who come on our tours are first-time transit riders. Art can really make transit more accessible and more inviting for people."

Correction: An earlier version of this story misspelled Heidi Zeller's name.