Arts & Culture Featured Music & Events Travel, Shopping & Leisure Fara Illich March 4, 2010

One of the longest-running, self-guided art tours in the nation is about to get underway right here in Downtown Phoenix. The 22nd Annual Art Detour begins this Saturday and no doubt the trains will be packed for this and other events taking place along light rail. Organizers estimate that close to 15,000 people will walk through artist studios, enjoy local restaurants and stores, and see everything the urban heart of the Valley has to offer.  Information on the event can be found here.

artdetourWhile the focus of Art Detour involves exploring the artist studios and galleries, you may also want to pay attention to the public art displays at each of the light rail stations. METRO budgeted $6.3 million for the features you see incorporated in the station platforms, each one unique to the neighborhood where the station is situated.  According to the METRO Web site:

“Each station boasts its own unique character with artwork that strives to add substance, style and even a touch of whimsy to the transit experience.  As a whole, the METRO art program is a major example of how art can transform the landscape and enhance the public dialogue.”

I love how the station art gives the transit rider some historical perspective on the area and provides a story about the community as a whole.  In one case there’s a sad twist that took place during the design and construction phase of the project.  Below are some interesting facts about the station art in Central Phoenix:

200px-METRO_Light_Rail_Uptown_Phoenix_Station_Sculpture– The missing pieces of art at the McDowell station are due to a sudden death during construction.

– The terrazzos on the 1st Avenue/Jefferson platform celebrate iconic figures in Arizona justice, like Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor.

– The bronze boxes at the Encanto/Central station rotate and display narrative glyphs next to a modern version of a Mayan sculpture.

– The 24-foot circular design of desert stones [left] at the Camelback station is one of the largest public art displays along the 20-mile starter line.

– The Brancusi-inspired beacons at the 3rd Street/Washington station change color, and use sunlight to display color during the day.

You can read about the sudden death of the McDowell station artist here,and learn about the other station artwork here, and how to ride the METRO light rail here. What are some of your favorite works of art along the light rail?