Tapping Transit Hubs as Inspirational Art Spaces

Posted on January 26, 2015 by Heather Redfern - Also by this author

“Dreams in TRANSIT” exhibit at SEPTA's Frankford Transportation Center.
“Dreams in TRANSIT” exhibit at SEPTA's Frankford Transportation Center.
Around the world, artwork of all forms adorns transportation centers, stations and bus shelters. While many of these statues, paintings, mosaics and sculptures are permanently installed as part of a station’s architecture, transportation organizations can use their spaces for art exhibitions that not only make transit hubs more aesthetically pleasing for commuters,but also inspire budding artists.

The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) recently partnered with two organizations to showcase the artistic talent of youth from the Greater Philadelphia region and around the world.

Last fall, two SEPTA transportation centers and a downtown Philadelphia Regional (commuter) Rail station were transformed to art galleries, courtesy of Dream Flag Project. Children from 21 schools, including institutions in Nepal, Zambia, China, France and Mexico, participated in the “Dreams in TRANSIT” exhibit, decorating cloth Dream Flags with their poems and artwork that described their dreams. The flags are attached to lines to connect students’ hopes and dreams to one another’s. The flags, which were exhibited at SEPTA’s 69th Street and Frankford Transportation Centers (the flags at Frankford were displayed in an unused storefront) and Jefferson Station, were designed to motivate commuters and remind all students that their dreams matter.

The Dream Flag Project was established at The Agnes Irwin School, located just outside Philadelphia, in 2003. There are now 400 schools in 42 states and 25 countries participating in the program. Students in pre-K through 12th grade have made more than 100,000 Dream Flags. This was the first time an exhibit was held at transit stations.

"Dream Flags have been exhibited in Philadelphia's City Hall, Philadelphia International Airport, Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and many other locations, but ‘Dreams in TRANSIT’ gets our children's dreams before the eyes of more people than ever, and that's what The Dream Flag Project is all about,” said Jeff Harlan, co-founder and director of The Dream Flag Project. “We hope that SEPTA's forward looking effort in supporting student dreams is a model for transit systems across the country and maybe around the world. Public transit it the way of the future, and we'd like to see ‘Dreams in TRANSIT’ helping us brighten and realize that future everywhere.” Transportation agencies interested in hosting a Dream Flags exhibit can contact Harlan at jharlan@dreamflags.org.

Got Strings student group performing at SEPTA's Suburban Station during the holiday season.
Got Strings student group performing at SEPTA's Suburban Station during the holiday season.
SEPTA’s support of the arts is not limited to visual displays; the authority has also opened its stations for musical performances. On a Sunday afternoon during the busy holiday season, members of INRUSH — junior high and high school student musicians — performed for afternoon crowds traveling in and out of SEPTA’s downtown Philadelphia commuter rail stations. Not only did the concerts help the authority spread holiday cheer to unsuspecting customers, the events gave the students the opportunity to show off their impressive musical abilities to large audiences.

“Like all large cities, Philadelphia is home to many talented young artists,” said SEPTA GM Joseph Casey. “We are proud to be able to open our stations and transportation centers to these creative youth and give them gallery and concert hall-like exposure for their artwork, writings and performances. This is a fun and important community service all transit agencies can provide.”

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