The New York City subway is not normally a place to take in the view. But commuters who slow down might be surprised to find museum-worthy works of art from the likes of pop artist Roy Lichtenstein (a mural in the Times Square station) and minimalist Sol LeWitt (a tile drawing in the Columbus Circle station) enhancing their subway stops.
Harootian leads "art crawls" of the underground treasures. As he writes on his website, "It's a unique experience to see art in this environment, away from the structured and traditional space a museum provides. Featuring works by Jacob Lawrence (New York in Transit), Tom Otterness (Life Underground), Stephen Johnson (Dekalb Improvisation), Bill Brand (Masstransiscope), Keith Godard (Memories of twenty-third Street), Toby Buonagurio (Times Square Times: 35 Times), and more."
Blogger and tour guide Harootian thought of the idea of subway tours while looking around the 14th Street station and realizing that nobody else was.
"Most commuters weren't even noticing all of the bronze figures by Tom Otterness (Life Underground)," Harootian wrote in an email to Yahoo News. "I kind of laughed because it's true how NY'ers are always in a rush. I then started taking a few images and as soon as I did that about 3 people came up to me. They started taking their own pictures and one asked me if I knew who the artists was. That's when I realized I wanted to do an art project based on the NYC subway Arts for Transit program."
Harootian has been organizing the free NYC Subway Art Crawls since January. (He charges for private tours.)
New York City's Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) has long had a tradition of preserving and commissioning public art in the subways. As the subway stops are upgraded, money is set aside to add art. Mosaics in the halls, sculpture and some murals that can only be viewed when riding the subway are all part of the underground art offerings. The MTA website notes, "Arts for Transit's projects create links to neighborhoods with art that echoes the architectural history and design context of the individual stations."
Check out the MTA website to view all of the artwork on view underground. Or check out a short video on a smartphone app that takes you on a subway art tour: