Sheppard Subway Art Crawl
Torontoist doesn’t usually have much reason to go up to the Sheppard Line or as we call it the “IKEA” line. But after hearing about the public art built in to the new stations of the Sheppard line, we decided to investigate. There’s art at other TTC stations (Dupont and College comes to mind) and the work of people like Matt Blackett have made many of us see that even the utilitarian tile designs of various stations has a certain urban beauty.
But nowhere in the system can you find a concentration of public art like you’ll find on the Sheppard line. We start at Sheppard-Yonge station where artist Stacey Spiegel has transformed the walls into a panorama of Ontario countryside. Spiegel has taken millions of one inch tiles and crafted a pastoral image so at odds with the subway’s present but is a direct link back to Yonge St.’s past as the road that settlers took to go north.
The art at Bayview and Besarrion doesn’t have the same grandiose scale as Spiegel’s mosaic but still provide relief from the monotony of a morning commute. Panya Clark Espinal’s line drawings litter the floor and walls of Bayview station. Is that a coffee cup on the floor? Is that a ladder playfully sketched on top of a staircase?
The playfulness of this work is in direct contrast with the photos installed on the wall of Besarrion station. The photos of faces and the back of heads of anonymous commuters can be disconcerting. In one photo, a baby held on its mother’s shoulders looks at you not out of curiosity or innocence but a look that resembles a sort of stunned silence.
Returning to the themes of tiles is Micah Lexier’s installation “Ampersand” at Leslie station. Lexier collected 3,400 different people to write the names of the intersection where the station is located. The result is a balance of anonymity, community and individuality. It’s a balance that exists everyday on the subways streaking underneath us and the streetcars that rumble along our streets.