"Inspiring Spaces: 25 Years of MTA Arts for Transit"

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Even the crankiest commuter might feel a lift in their mood when faced with sea creatures at the 81st St--Museum of Natural History subway station, or a colorful zoetrope that can only be viewed on the subway between the DeKalb Ave station and the Manhattan Bridge. These projects—the collaborative For Want of a Nail, and Bill Brand's Masstransiscope, respectively—are part of the MTA's Arts for Transit program, which began in 1985 and continues to make the usually drab transit system pop. The program is the subject of a new exhibit, "Inspiring Spaces: 25 Years of MTA Arts for Transit," which opens at the New York Transit Museum (Boerum Pl at Schermerhorn St, Boerum Hill, Brooklyn; 718-694-1600, mta.info/mta/museum. Tue--Fri 10am--4pm; Sat, Sun noon--5pm. $3--$5; through Oct 11) on Saturday 3. The collection provides a behind-the-scenes look at the work involved in the creation of the program's 215 pieces, including these two works:

Ben Snead, Departures and Arrivals; A, C, F to Jay St--Borough Hall, Brooklyn
Like many people who pass by this piece, the starlings and monk parrots that dance along this curved 103-foot wall have migrated to Brooklyn from around the world. However, the tiger beetle on the tile background is a local species whose population is in decline. Highlighting the connections between such varied species, the glass mosaic images are woven together into a brightly colored mural.

Tom Otterness, Life Underground; A, C, E to 14th St
The Brooklyn sculptor's pieces are some of the best-known in the entire Arts for Transit program. Many of Otterness's bronze figures are based on early New York political cartoons and myths—like a man with a money-bag head or an alligator emerging from the sewer—and capture the city's constant rhythm. In a top hat and tie, some are as stylish as the station's commuters, while others, such as a bronze pay phone designed to look like a person, are just as nonsensical.—Rebecca Dalzell

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