List of artists for Central Subway project whittled down 

The list of hundreds of artists eager to beautify three new Muni stations as part of The City’s ambitious Central Subway project has narrowed to 19.

The San Francisco Arts Commission secured about $9 million to finance the artists chosen to decorate the new stations near Union Square, at the Moscone Convention Center and in Chinatown. The $1.6 billion transit expansion would connect Muni’s light-rail service from the South of Market area to Chinatown.

The commission received more than 450 applications from artists, but that list was whittled down to 19 finalists, three of whom will be chosen to adorn the stations with art.

“We’ve worked very closely with the architects and they have turned over every wall surface,” said Jill Manton, director of programs for the Arts Commission. “We’re really looking for something that will put our subway system on the map.”

Manton said within the next couple weeks, the artists will start displaying their composition ideas publicly at community meetings to help commissioners and Central Subway art panelists choose the final three.

“There are a lot of possibilities,” she said. “We want it to relate to the context of the neighborhood, operational needs and constraints, and we want everyone to work with the theme of trains. People really were very imaginative.”

Panelists made suggestions to the commission based on a point system that evaluated the artists’ experience, relevance and ability to utilize the unique space that includes glass walls, platforms, station entryways and elevators.

Panelist Mark Johnson of the Chinatown area is the director of the Fine Arts Gallery at San Francisco State University and said he was also looking for cultural cues in the artists’ work.

“The major look of it is being designed by architects, of course, but the art should be a way-finding tool. And a second piece to the art is something more of a major sculptural element,” Johnson said. “The public space will be much different than we’re used to.”

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Kamala Kelkar

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