Sky Train Art

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The Sky Train at Sky Harbor Airport started operation on Monday, April 8th. Six art projects at the airport were added along with the new Sky Train. Find out about the new art work from Ed Lebow, the Public Arts Program Director for the City of Phoenix.

Ted Simons: The new SkyTrain at Sky Harbor began operations earlier this month. The debut this month included an art opening of sorts, with the presentation of more than half a dozen art installations designed to coincide with the train. I talked to the City of Phoenix Public Art Program director Ed Lebow about the installations.Good to have you here.

Ted Simons: Five artists, six?

Ed Lebow: Five artists and artist teams and six installations at each of the site and stops along the SkyTrain.

Ted Simons: And how long was the development?

Ed Lebow: Ann Coe likes to say her project manager was pregnant when they started and now she has a -year-old. Since 2008.

Ted Simons: Where is our display? Is it on the train, in the train, around the train?

Ed Lebow: It's the spaces leading up to the train. There are huge terazzo floors. If you get off on light rail, cross a bridge, the entire bridge is designed by an artist working with a design team of architects and engineers and all the rest. East economy lot and terminal four, you hve two major projects there.

Ted Simons: Let's take a look at some of these projects. We'll start with this one with Daniel Mayor. It's kind of like calligraphy here.

Ed Lebow: He's a book maker and print maker who teaches out of ASU. He used a lot of fonts what we like to call in the digital world. In this case he wanted to scatter the floor with a path that led you from one part of the train, the exit, right over to the escalators. The scrawl you have there is limitless as the open, and timeless as the open. Sort of to draw upon the book of travel.

Ted Simons: And Daniel Mayor also did I believe a couple of glass murals, as well. Where are these?

Ed Lebow: When you come off the SkyTrain platform, go down the escalators. There are two bridges that connect the train station to the terminal. He did these remarkable murals that really began with prints of Arizona leaves on aluminum foil. He scaled these up and produced them in traditional stained glass technique for both of these bridges. They are beautiful and large. You can see them from the drop-off area below at terminal four south side.

Ted Simons: Basically those are leaf prints.

Ed Lebow: And very traditional, but in a contemporary setting unlike any other.

Ted Simons: And I would imagine the scope and size kind of takes your breath away.

Ed Lebow: A hundred and fifteen feet along by about nine feet tall, you feel like you're a bug crawling on the leaf.

Ted Simons: Daniel Martin Diaz did a floor on the pedestrian bridge.

Ed Lebow: Daniel Martin Diaz did a remarkable floor on the pedestrian bridgeon 44th Street station to the light rail stop. This is a remarkable project. It's almost 500 feet long, 40 feet wide. You can see from the pictures the kind of hand craftsmanship that went into this. These were produced by Advance Terazzo and some other skilled craftmans. It took about 25 workers. Terazzo is something that dates back a couple thousand years and began with bits of marble from construction built into cement. Now we have modern materials that are really beautiful.

Ted Simons: Mandala-like out there.

Ted Simons: Let's start with Fernandez, well-known in the Valley as an artist. You got him to contribute, as well, huh?

Ed Lebow: We did, we had a competition to select these artists five years ago. They became the artists to do the terazzo projects. Fausto because of his layering of paints and imagery, and he worked beautifully with the design team to create a pattern based on the tail-plane wings.

Ted Simons: Ann Coe, another very familiar artist to folks here in the Valley. She did a floor, as well?

Ed Lebow: She did. It captured all of the whimsy everybody knows Ann has. It's essentially an aerial flyover of the Arizona landscapes, which she loves. You have these wiggling lines of trees and canals and rivers, takes off the topographic maps you often see.

Ted Simons: A floor as landscape.

Ed Lebow: The floor is landscape. This is an outdoor station. The east economy lot, this is an outdoor station. Advance came up with a new product to make it a durable product in the outdoors.

Ted Simons: There was an international team, as well. Was this a ceiling of clouds?

Ed Lebow: Yes, at the 44th Street station on the ground floor, sort of the main entrance to that site, you have the international team, and they had done a good deal of reading about the ancient ocean that used to be here covering Arizona. They were also infatuated with the blueness of our sky, the landscape. They combined those two things into this grid, with the rippling water in the middle.

Ted Simons: How much say did these artists have or how much control did they have over what they wanted to do?

Ed Lebow: Very significant. They began with the drawings and then worked directly with the architects to tweak them as the SkyTrain developed.

Ted Simons: And the overall cost of all of this?

Ed Lebow: About 5.6 million in change out of a 1.5 billion dollar project.

Ted Simons: And again, the money came from…

Ed Lebow: Percent for Art Program. The city has a percent for art program, which means that for every penny out of a buck that the city spends on building itself, involves artists and making these kind of enhancements.

Ted Simons: The response from the artists. Are they happy?

Ed Lebow: They are delighted and thrilled, the response from the public has been goodness, gracious, this is wonderful, wonderful work.

Ted Simons: Congratulations on a success there. Can't wait to get out there and take a look. Thanks for joining us.

Ed Lebow: Thanks for having me here.

Ed Lebow:Public Arts Program Director, City of Phoenix;

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