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From Union Square, up to Lincoln Center, and back down to the Village/Chelsea border, Subway Art Tour One is a unique survey of ten subway stations and their permanent art installations. You will discover a part of New York that few visitors or New Yorkers take the time to see: a museum at the core of the Big Apple. The artwork surrounds the harried locals everyday, yet it goes unnoticed. What a shame that is! We shall take our time to explore. Step aboard for an eye-opening ride!
The first subway train set off from the City Hall station in October 1904. From this time to the present, art has been a feature of New York’s subway system. In its early years, the art served as directional and identifying signs in mosaic tiles, used because of their durability. Tile mosaics remain the preferred medium artwork in the 20th and 21st centuries.
Here is a bit of history about mosaics. As early as the Bronze Age, on the Isle of Crete and in Greece, flooring was created with small pebbles. In the Near East in the eighth century BC, patterns were introduced. In fifth century BC Greece geometric floor designs had been created at Corinth; in the following century, colors were added in Macedonia. The Romans used only black and white pieces, often to represent marine motifs, especially for their public baths.
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s extensive art collection is managed by its Arts and Design department. In addition to the station projects, inside the subway cars there are amusing illustrations; plus “Poetry in Motion” gives passengers something to engage their thoughts. On one subway line, the cars become canvases; the effect is impressive.
The art is not limited to the walls of the subway stations. Musicians and puppeteers use the subway’s platforms and passageways to entertain riders. Some musicians also use the subway platforms as a stage; and some even put on a show inside the subway trains. These performers are seeking donations. Determine your level of generosity.
The subway platforms are level. There will be stairs to climb to reach the platforms, several sets of stairs along the route, and more to climb when exiting. Be prepared. Wearing a comfortable pair of shoes is a good idea. The fewer bags you bring the better. Travel light! The New York City subway system is safe!
PLEASE NOTE you will need a MetroCard to take advantage of this tour. A MetroCard is not included in the tour price.
The Tour’s cost is $40 for adults, $30 for seniors 65 years and older, and $20 for youths 13 to 18 years of age. Please consult the Calendar Schedule for the dates and times of the Tour. Click on the “Book Now” button at the top of the page or below to book your place. The Tour runs 2.5 to 3 hours. Bookings must be made at least 36 hours before the Tour begins. The Subway Art Tour replaces all outdoor walking tours when it is raining, snowing, bitterly cold, or very windy. All Tour participants assume normal liability for their behavior during the Tour.
With only one swipe of your MetroCard is needed to gain access to a fascinating look at the art museum at the core of the Big Apple. We gather outside by the bronze sculpture of George Washington on horseback in Union Square at East 14th Street, where the Tour begins. You can see the Whole Foods store across the street from this point. The Tour ends at West 14th Street and Eighth Avenue. All tours are conducted in English.
Come along, let’s talk about and walk about New York!
ALL TEXT AND PHOTOS © THE AUTHOR 2014–2019