Local art not just found above the surface

Ordinary cities have ordinary subway stations; Los Angeles is not an ordinary city. Their metro is a work of art.

The free Metro Art tour takes you on an underground adventure, allowing you the opportunity to learn the history of the different art that resides throughout the Metro stations.

John Coanda, the art docent who led last Thursday's tour, was well informed of the art he described. Besides knowledge, his passion for what he discussed shone through. Sharing facts about the art and those responsible for designing each station, much was acquired from his information. Art aficionado or not, many can enjoy the experience of not only learning something new but also gaining greater appreciation for the art, the city, and the effort and details behind it all.

With three different stops on the tour, you learn how each station has its own theme.

Sheila Kleine, an artist who has contributed to other public art projects as well, created the Hollywood/Highland station's art. The theme of the station is "the beast under the street," as Coanda described it. When observing the architecture, one has the feeling of being in the presence of a beastly creature.

The Hollywood/Vine station, which was a favorite for many of the tour attendees, had a Hollywood theme. Artist Gilbert Lujan worked on this station with a vision to evoke the history of Tinsel town.

Palm trees are placed throughout, along with old-fashioned cars on the benches. Placed on the walls are art tiles, one of them a painting of the classic film, "The Wizard of Oz." Decorating the ceiling are 19,000 film reels. Two original film projectors, donated by Paramount Pictures, are also on display.

Lujan, in a statement to corroborate with his art said, "What evolved, in searching for design elements and solutions for this station, was the implication of Hollywood as a dream factory for world culture. The ingredients were light and power, fantasy and enchantment, glitz and glitter."

The following stop on the tour was the Metro station at Sunset and Vermont. Artist Michael Davis included numerous elements from the neighborhood surroundings of medical facilities, such as Kaiser Permanente and Children's Hospital to come up with the theme for this Sunset/Vermont station. The station incorporated sciences such as medicine and astronomy into its creation.

On the floor is blue travertine tile, nine different shades of blue for the nine planets. There are also sphere shaped disks on the floor, each containing different medical symbols and microscopic images of things such as bacteria, chromosomes, sperm, fertilized eggs, etc.

Josephine Ho, one of the people who took Thursday's tour said, "I grew up in LA and never took public transportation so this was eye opening. I think more people should take the tour."

"Tell your friends about it," said Coanda, upon arrival back to the Hollywood/Highland station. "Make sure you mention it's free, that ought to spark their interest."

The tours are every first Thursday of each month at seven p.m. and every first Saturday at ten a.m.