Residents meet with artists for Purple Line Art-in-Transit project

Residents talk about their communities and the possibilities for art in the Purple Line stations in Montgomery County. The program was organized by the Maryland Transit Administration for the Purple Line Art-in-Transit project. Photo by Mike Diegel.

About 50 area residents came last night for a presentation and conversation about the Purple Line’s Art-in-Transit project held at Montgomery Blair High School by the Maryland Transit Administration.

MTA put out a national call for artists for the project in September 2014.

“We were able to get about 730 entries, which was pretty phenomenal,” said Jo Schneider, Art-in-Transit director for MTA. “We put together a very specific selection committee, which included representatives of the MTA, the concessionaire that was coming on board, Maryland State Arts Council, Montgomery County Arts and Humanities Council, Prince George’s Arts and Humanities Council, [and] also a number of arts professionals and the community.”

The committee narrowed the selection down to 95 potential participants; some have since withdrawn from consideration.

“Many, many of them have done transit projects . . . all over the country,” said Mike Madden, MTA’s deputy project director for the Purple Line.

“We have the very top tier of public artists in the country,” Schneider added.

Just to qualify for consideration, “you had to have this experience behind you, you had to have the body of work, you had to have the résumé to back it up,” she continued.

Last night’s event focused on Montgomery County. It was part of a two-day program that brought many of the chosen artists to the area to tour the sites of the 21 Purple Line stations. They came from around the country, places such as Los Angeles, Minnesota and New York, including artists from Takoma Park, Langley Park and Washington, D.C.

Three or four artists were assigned one of the stations to consider. Residents were invited to come and meet the artists, as well as share with them what they considered to be special about the communities surrounding each station.

“Our goal is to have art in each station that reflects the communities that surround that station,” Madden said. “Our purpose is to have the artists hear directly from the community what is important about [their] neighborhood.”

An eavesdropper listening in on some of the conversations could hear people talking about their community’s history, types of housing, parks and other amenities nearby, diversity and similar topics.

Artists will be expected to create a proposal for their assigned station, which will be vetted by MTA and the Purple Line Transit Partners. More public meetings will be held to share the concepts, with the selection committee reviewing and making the final choices in late March. Only one winning artist will be chosen to create a project for each station.

The budget for the program is $6 million, though that amount will not be divided evenly among the stations.

“Some of the stations, like at Silver Spring Transit Center or Bethesda, there’s more infrastructure,” Madden said. “Some of them are very simple. Some of the stations have a special feature, like a wall or something that we’ve said, ‘Okay, artists, this is an opportunity for you.’”

“We’re really excited about this part of the project,” Schneider said, “and hope to be very visible and very exciting.”

The stations in the Silver Spring/Takoma Park area are Lyttonsville, Woodside/16th Street, Silver Spring Transit Center, Silver Spring Library, Dale Drive, Manchester Place, Long Branch and Piney Branch Road.

In addition to choosing visual artists, MTA is looking for literary artists, writers who can “create a story that captures the essence of the [Purple Line] corridor and text that will be incorporated into the stations,” according to the call for entries.

For more information, contact [email protected].

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