Metro Issues a Global Call for Art to Adorn Five Stations-to-Be

By Lisa Rein
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, July 27, 2006

The long-sought Metrorail extension to Dulles International Airport is still awaiting federal funding, but transit officials say it's not too early to decide what riders will look at as they begin and end their commute.

Metro has put out an international call for artists to put their aesthetic stamp on four train stations planned in Tysons Corner and one at Wiehle Avenue in Reston, the terminus of the project's first leg. The artist's medium can range from sculpture to lights to murals. But Metro insists that applicants have experience creating public art and that the art be three-dimensional, durable and vandal-resistant.

"We want the artist to have an absolutely clean palette and be totally creative," said Michael McBride, manager of Metro's Art in Transit program, which has installed 23 works in the system's 86 stations since 1995.

Metro is advertising for five artists, one for each station. The agency received 156 responses to a solicitation put out a month ago, McBride said, from artists as far away as Australia. The deadline to apply is Aug. 4. Contracts with artists who are selected will be contingent on federal funding for the rail project, which is expected to stretch from West Falls Church to Dulles International Airport when it's completed in 2015.

One uncertainty is whether the stations in Tysons will be underground, a feature that could determine artistic choices. State officials are weighing whether to run a tunnel underneath Tysons for a stretch of the line.

Arts in Transit has grown into a popular feature of the subway system, and Metro officials have made a commitment to include art in all future station designs.

Each idea must be approved by a panel of community leaders, including artists and designers and, in the case of Tysons, business executives, who are appointed by Metro. The group will choose three finalists for each station and ask them to create a design based on a concept. A winner will be recommended to the Metro board for approval.

This is the way each piece of art in the Metro stations has been commissioned -- by residents who suggest local themes to artists who may not even live in the United States.

"The panel may say, 'We want something history-based,' " McBride said. "Or something abstract. Or realistic. We rely very heavily on the people that live in the community, because the artwork must reflect the community."

When asked to contemplate her artistic vision for Tysons Corner, Supervisor Joan M. DuBois (R-Dranesville) said she pictured the gas station often featured in photographs of the area after World War II. That was when it was a wide spot in the road, before it boomed into an office park and shopping mecca.

"There aren't a lot of landmarks you can point to," said DuBois, who represents the McLean area.

The budget for each of the five stations is about $200,000, McBride said, which covers the cost of heavy materials such as steel or copper.

© 2006 The Washington Post Company