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Artists Plan to Turn Rail Stops Into Transit Galleries

TIMES STAFF WRITER

There’s a new “art gallery” planned for the South Bay, an expansive museum stretching from El Segundo to Lennox to Inglewood. It also will double as a mass transit system.

The Los Angeles County Transportation Commission is hiring artists to create public art projects for the Metro Rail stations under construction. The commission is also seeking area residents to volunteer as advisers.

“We all get caught up in a 9-to-5 existence, and we sometimes don’t smell the roses,” said Charles Dickson, a sculptor from Compton who is designing a station in El Segundo. “The stations to me are like tremendous flowers.”

Art-for-Rail-Transit Administrator Jessica Cusick said the program will produce more than murals or paintings on barren station walls. She made it clear that the type of art sought could include sound or lights, for example.

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“What we’re trying to do is build a new set of cultural landmarks for Los Angeles,” she said. ". . . Without trying to sound too grandiose, what we might end up with is a countywide museum.”

In some instances, the artists will work with the architects to incorporate the art into the station design. At the four stations planned for El Segundo, which will be used heavily by commuters, the artists have come up with creations whose subjects will not be instantly obvious, even to repeat users.

The Douglas Street station, for instance, will feature an abstract pattern based on a map of the area with constellations superimposed.

Passengers using the station at Aviation Boulevard and Imperial Highway will trigger a sound recorded in outer space--Cusick said it is reminiscent of whale “songs"--by stepping on a particular unmarked area of the station floor. A rush of commuters, triggering many of these sounds, is expected to produce a sort of extraterrestrial symphony.

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Another El Segundo station, the one designed by Dickson, will have a butterfly theme in honor of the endangered El Segundo blue butterfly. A huge sculpture will show a metamorphosing butterfly juxtaposed with an airplane under production. The station will be at Nash Street and Mariposa Avenue. (Mariposa is the Spanish word for butterfly.)

“I think every artist longs for this opportunity,” Dickson said. “The freeways of today are very much like the pyramids of yesterday. This is giving me a feeling of longevity and great accomplishment. I can’t wait to go up my elevator . . . to see the butterflies.”

There will be 14 stations on the Green Line, which will run along the median of the Century Freeway from Norwalk to Los Angeles International Airport. Seven of the stops will be in the South Bay. Although the new freeway will end at LAX, the Green Line, scheduled to open in 1994, will run on an elevated guideway through El Segundo to the northern boundary of Redondo Beach.

In addition to the El Segundo stops, other South Bay stations will be in Lennox, and one each on the Hawthorne-Redondo Beach line and the Hawthorne-Inglewood line.

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The other three artists for the El Segundo stations will be Daniel Martinez, Renee Petropolos and Richard Turner. Carl Cheng will do the Hawthorne-Redondo Beach station.


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