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Artist Will Leave a Touch of Nature at Train Station : Design: Viqui McCaslin is chosen to enhance Soledad Canyon Road transit center with her $50,000 project.

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Train stations and busy public buildings may not seem likely canvasses for depicting scenes of nature, but for artist Viqui McCaslin they are perfect.

The City Council recently selected McCaslin’s work from among that of dozens of local artists to enhance the Santa Clarita Transit Center on Soledad Canyon Road.

Her design calls for covering two concrete arches at the station with terra cotta slabs picturing frolicking antelope amid images of ancient Indian feathers. Next to the archways will be a “diminishing watering hole” surrounded by the footprints of various wildlife once plentiful in the Santa Clarita Valley.

“These are the creatures that are still out there in the chaparral,” McCaslin said, referring to the brush-covered hillsides near the Saugus station. “What I’m trying to do is to maintain the connection between man and his environment.”

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McCaslin, a Yaqui Indian, expects to begin work on the project by the end of this month and plans to finish sometime this summer. She has worked as an artist for 30 years.

“I inherited the family pottery tools,” she said, referring to those handed down by her grandmother, a Membre Indian. “I feel a very special connection through the tools.”

The 52-year-old former archeologist said she draws heavily on her academic and work experience as well as her ancestry, in all of her art.

“I try to make all of my experiences explicable through it,” she said. “That’s my approach.”

The $50,000 project is funded by the city and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s Art for Rail Transit program, which is funding similar projects at nearly a dozen sites throughout the county.

Besides being pleasing to the eye, McCaslin’s work has an unexpected educational value, said Alan Nakagawa, who oversees station art projects for the MTA.

“A train station is not necessarily the kind of place you’d expect to find this kind of information,” Nakagawa said. “This is the kind of stuff you might expect to see in a museum.”

This will not be the first time a public place has served as a canvas for McCaslin. Her public portfolio includes a 5,000-square-foot floor mural in Santa Barbara’s public works building, and other murals in Metrolink stations along the recently opened Century Freeway.

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“A lot of artists make monuments to themselves,” she said, explaining her penchant for public art. “But I’m a public artist. I’ve got a message for everyone.”


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