Museums may be great places to view art, but today’s cutting-edge digital artists may yearn to have their works displayed in alternative venues, like transportation hubs.
The state of New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) Arts & Design’s Digital Arts program offers such opportunities for artistic expression at the Fulton Center in downtown Manhattan.
The MTA’s art department administers visual arts and performance programs throughout the MTA network in the metropolitan New York area. It commissions professional artists to create original artwork for transportation stations.
The Fulton Center is a transportation hub built as part of the post-9/11 rebuild of lower Manhattan, next to the World Trade Center. The Digital Arts Program at Fulton Center was launched in tandem with the opening of the hub in November 2014. The immersive art experience is meant to be a visual break from commercial advertisements, says Yaling Chen, Deputy Director of the MTA Arts & Design Program.
52 digital screens placed throughout the different levels feature works commissioned by artists who work in digital media. The 52-screen network has displays that range from a large-scale LED wall, to 3 x 3 configurations of LCD screens occupying the entire space. The digital artwork plays for two minutes at the top of each hour, throughout the entire day (24/7).
“It's very immersive,” says Chen, “and takes advantage of a fully digitally, integrated transportation building.”
The screens are revenue driven, as management company Westfield primarily utilizes them for advertisements. However, “the art is often perceived as a moment of respite to people,” explains Chen. AMC Sports manages the content.
“The fact that artists can produce digital artwork for a public space that takes up three different levels in a building, along with the passageways, is for them is a once-in-a-lifetime goal,” says Chen. “The artwork stays up for a range of time, maybe from three to five months, before it is switched to another artist's work.”
The artists must think architecturally and three-dimensionally. “They need to be able to conceptually and territorially come up with a proposal — a concept for the artwork that can be created, edited and formatted for a range of different types of screen configurations for the building. Once they figure that out, they propose it to us. With our approval, they go out to produce and create the artwork,” says Chen.
“Once the work has been created, we work with AMC Sports and Westfield to have the site tested to make sure the content for every screen is synchronized so the work shows at the same time.”