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Objet D'artNew rail stations serve as vibrant canvases
Rail station columns, canopies and platforms are not simply functional elements, they are designed as unique reflections of the communities they serve. They can be historical, whimsical, calming or colorful - sometimes all at once. In a word, DART stations are cool, and the Green Line has some energetic new additions to the growing "DART gallery" of public art.
The four communities served by the first phase of the Green Line are located in fairly close proximity, but each has its own unmistakable character and flavor.
The Traveling Man
For decades, motorists entering the Deep Ellum neighborhood from downtown Dallas on Good-Latimer would drive through a long railroad underpass with concrete walls that became a canvas for local muralists. When it was decided that this iconic "gateway to Deep Ellum" would have to be removed to make way for the new Deep Ellum Station, DART set out to provide the area with a new public art hallmark.
In what has been dubbed "The Deep Ellum Gateway Project," DART hosted a design competition for an imaginative and highly visible public art project to welcome all visitors who enter Deep Ellum. Brandon Oldenburg of Deep Ellum's own Reel FX Creative Studios and Brad Oldham of Dallas-based Brad Oldham Inc. won the commission in 2007. The result - a three-part stainless steel sculpture series called The Traveling Man - delivers spectacularly.
The Traveling Man - Walking Tall
Good-Latimer & Swiss Avenue
Traveling Man stands 38-feet tall, creating a stunning welcome to neighborhood visitors and residents. With a jovial step from the southeast side of the lot, he links the neighborhood with the rail station.
The sculpture is brushed stainless steel connected with hundreds of visible stainless steel monobolt rivets. The stainless steel birds on the ground serve as functional seating as well as part of the sculpture. The birds are polished to a mirror finish and made of the same material as the famous Cloud Gate sculpture in Chicago's Millennium Park.
The Traveling Man - Waiting on a Train
Good-Latimer & Gaston Avenue
A nine-foot Traveling Man leans against a concrete portion of the original Deep Ellum Tunnel and strums his guitar while waiting for the next train. The circular shape of the guitar body resembles the core of his own body, reminding viewers his music comes from his heart.
The Traveling Man - Awakening
Good-Latimer & Elm Street
The Traveling Man's eight-foot-wide head rises from the ground as if he is emerging from the earth below Deep Ellum. As people meet, talk, sing, wait, and spend time in Deep Ellum, they can lounge on his approachable head. Here again, sculptural birds offer their bodies to guests for generous seating.
Deep Ellum Station
Linking the Past and the Future
Station artist Julie Cohn strikes a thematic balance between Deep Ellum's legendary past and its hopes for the future. The artwork on the windscreens is a kind of palimpsest - an ancient manuscript that has been written on, scraped off, and used again, creating a layered effect.
"Deep Ellum has had so many iterations," she says. "I really wanted to capture that." The windscreens feature old and new imagery from the neighborhood that shifts depending on the viewing perspective.
Baylor University Medical Center StationOn the Pulse
Baylor University Medical Center Station unites the century-old hospital campus with the equally historical Deep Ellum neighborhood. The station is conceived as a vibrant public space - and, uniquely, includes a two-acre plaza featuring extensive landscaping.
"The concrete is imprinted with a giant fingerprint, with five paths radiating out from it," says Karen Blessen, the station artist. "Each path is emblazoned with a mosaic representing one of the five senses. The gardens and plaza can be many things - a play area, a retreat for friends and relatives of patients at Baylor, and a respite for those waiting for a DART train."
Blessen's title for her public art, On the Pulse, also represents a joining of the two communities. At Baylor, the significance of the word "pulse" is literal; for artsy Deep Ellum it has a more figurative meaning - the celebration of life through art and music.
The platform area reflects that theme, as well. The columns contain a collage of elements reflecting the architecture and character of Deep Ellum and Baylor. The basic fluted column shape is a reference to the original Baylor Hospital columns, while the surface of the column erodes to reveal brick material that refers to Deep Ellum. The windscreens pay homage to people who have shaped each community.
By making the connection between the life experiences of Baylor and the life expressions of Deep Ellum, Blessen has created a station with a pulse all its own.
Fair Park Station
Keeping With Tradition
Built for the 1936 Texas Centennial Exposition, the grand exhibit halls and esplanade of Fair Park constitute the only intact and unaltered pre-1950s world fair site in the United States. Until 1956, trolleys served the fairgrounds with a stop at the main entrance on Parry Avenue. The Green Line's Fair Park Station is situated right where that original trolley stop was, more than a half-century ago.
"It was important that the design of the station be extremely sensitive to the historic context, the functional requirements of Fair Park, and the context of the surrounding neighborhood," says Brad Goldberg, who was the station artist along with his wife Diana. In view of the unique requirements the site presented, the Goldbergs departed from DART's tradition of barrel-vault or gull-wing canopies. The resulting horizontal canopies sport a crisp, clean look that's original but very much in keeping with the art deco aesthetic.
Other elements contribute to the seamless effect: fluted limestone columns resonate with the nearby Hall of State, while curvilinear seating echoes the rounded shapes evident throughout Fair Park. At night, artistic lighting elements will reflect the historic use of dramatic lighting at Fair Park, and enhance not only the station but the entrance as a whole.
MLK, Jr. Station
Continuing the Story
MLK, Jr. Station continues thematically where the adjacent J.B. Jackson, Jr. Transit Center leaves off: telling the story of the community that surrounds it, framed in the context of the larger African-American experience.
Conceived by artist Emmanuel Gillespie, the station extends the "Walk of Respect" from the adjacent transit center, creating a common motif to join the two facilities. The Walk of Respect uses symbols from African kuba cloths – a form of textile art, similar to tapestries – that represent concepts such as unity and respect. "Additionally, the handrail extends from the transit center and will have patterns symbolizing wisdom and understanding," Gillespie says. The patterns featured in the column cladding are also based on kuba cloths, and are associated with the art of storytelling.
The windscreens feature images from noted local photographer R.C. Hickman, who documented Dallas' civil rights era. The photos tell the story of the city's African-American community during that turbulent time.
In a separate piece of commissioned art, sculptor Steve Teeters augments the theme of African storytelling with the construction of two 17-foot African "talking drums."
"Drums are among the most important art forms to come from Africa," Teeters says. "They were used to tell stories, and for long-distance communication, as well. It's an appropriate image for a station named after a man who made great changes in the world simply by communicating ideas. And, just as talking drums were passed from one generation to the next, the ideas of Martin Luther King, Jr. are alive in the present and future generations."
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