Valley Metro's METRO Public Art

Two arms, made of interwoven surfaces, extend from the base of the light rail station. The interwoven surface suggests conversations in different languages.
Photo: Suikang Zhao's “Hands” can be found at the Dorsey / Apache Boulevard METRO Rail station. “Hands” is a part of the larger theme of “The Space Between” found at the station.

In designing its first light rail system, METRO light rail (Valley Metro Rail Inc.) of Phoenix, Arizona, used a model of collaboration for localities to follow around the country. METRO established an “Urban Design Task Force” comprising of architects, artists, engineers, environmental experts and community activists.  The task force developed a set of principles that prioritized and guided all aspects of station design including shade, safety and maintenance, and the incorporation of each station’s art element to work within its neighborhood context. The public art program used these guidelines to design art works that were responsive to both the surroundings and METRO riders.

Foundational to METRO’s success was the continuous collaboration with artists from the inception of the project. METRO officials placed a nationwide call out to artists and positioned them with architectural teams working on each design project. This allowed artwork to be incorporated into existing designs - and project budgets -, ensuring the inclusion of art in each project. Finally, METRO won community support by engaging over 100 community volunteers throughout the design and construction process. Community members served on Station Art Review Panels, the Regional Rail Arts Committee, and engaged in numerous public meetings.

This collaborative process has led to extensive art presence along the METRO system, enhancing the public transportation experience in Phoenix, Tempe and Mesa and provided an example for communities around the country.

“Landmark,” by Ilan Averbuch, is a 24-foot ring of desert stones framing the transit center access drive and Central Avenue itself.
Photo: Ilan Averbuch's “Landmark” adorns the Central Avenue / Camelback METRO Rail station in Phoenix, AZ.

200 terrazzo pavers line the platform of a light rail station.Passengers on platform examine an illuminated, multi-colored "Station Beacon."Metal panels line up along the rail station platform to track the angle of the sun over Phoenix.
Left photo: Artist Nubia Owens created a carpet of over 200 terrazzo pavers that curve and wind around the platform at METRO Rail's 7th Aveneue / Camelback station.

Middle photo: Illuminated "Station Beacons," by Cliff Garten, great riders as they arrive at the 3rd Street / Jefferson station.

Right photo: Stuart Keeler and Michael Machnic created the artwork at the 38th Street / Washington station; this piece is an astronomical tool that notes the passage of time, utilizing the changing path of the Phoenix sun.

*Special thanks to MB Finnerty, Valley Metro, for assistance with this profile.