Large art pieces at light rail stations turning heads

Posted at 6:30 PM, Aug 02, 2017

It's the largest public art gallery in Arizona running from Mesa to Tempe, and Phoenix.

Along almost every light rail stop operated by Valley Metro, you'll see majestic displays of art.  Some, extremely tall sculptures, others very colorful mosaics. They're displayed along the walls, and even on the ground you walk on in some cases.

MB Finnerty has been the public art administrator at Valley Metro for 15 years. She said there was a lot of thought and discussion behind every design.

"Every station is really unique and every artist that comes on board, they don't start designing until they've done research in the community, talked with community members. Art is distinct but also about each community," said Finnerty.

All of the pieces were made of materials that could withstand triple digit heat and the UV rays in Arizona.

"From mosaic, to terrazzo, steel, concrete, granite, and metal," said Finnerty.

She showed ABC15 a pair of hands displayed at the Dorsey/Apache Boulevard station, explaining they were cast in Bronze. The artist was from New York and had gone through rigorous screening before coming up with his vision.

"For every request we send out, 60-150 artists will apply. They send us their past works. The committee sits down and goes through literally hundreds of pictures before we select an artist," said Finnerty.

Arizona artists were also chosen for many of these projects.

ABC15 asked Finnerty to explain some of the artwork we saw. She explained the hands represented a connection between many cultures in the community.

"You can see the tension up by the fingers, they're almost touching. This swirly mass is really reminiscent of script and language. This community has a lot of languages spoken out here," said Finnerty.

By the Mesa Arts Center, Valley Metro showed ABC15 a majestic tower made of faces. All profiles of people who had watched a performance at the Arts Center on the day the artist designed the project, explained Finnerty.

The budget for each station was from $200,000 to $260,000  Finnerty said that was just one percent of the entire budget for construction. While there were critics who felt that was too much money, Finnerty said the projects added a lot of value and culture into the community by building pride in a neighborhood, and also by putting Phoenix in the national cultural spotlight.

"It's really added value. We've had people coming from out of state to look at this art work.  We've been featured in magazines and articles," said Finnerty.

The chosen artists got a 15 percent design fee. You can read more information about the program HERE.