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Take a closer look at MARTA’s impressive art collection

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As part of its new “Artbound” program, MARTA is actively restoring many of its original artworks found in the transit system’s rail stations.

People standing in front of artwork in MARTA station.		MARTA

In terms of being a showcase for art pieces large and small, new and very old, MARTA stations are underrated. But the transit system wants to change that.

In June, MARTA kicked off its new “Artbound” program, which seeks to aesthetically enhance and integrate art throughout the rail system.

According to MARTA Arts Administrator Katherine Dirga, the program will contain the following elements: permanent and temporary visual art; live music, dance, and theater; and a conservation program for the authority’s collection of 35 original artworks.

As part of the program, MARTA recently restored original artworks at several of its stations, including North Avenue, Ashby, and Five Points. A restoration project also is on tap for the Decatur MARTA Station, with a new art installation scheduled for H.E. Holmes Station as well

It turns out the restoration efforts are quite interesting. Read on for a more in-depth look at the recent projects at North Avenue, Ashby, and Five Points stations.

MARTA station: North Avenue

Type of artwork: Aerial landscapes

Artist: Gordon Anderson

Original installation date: 1981

The North Avenue station contains artwork in the skylight area of the concourse plus 18 individual vignettes on painted tile found downstairs.

Artist Gordon Anderson’s goal for the vignettes was to create the experience of “distorted sensations of a pilot flying into the North Avenue station.” As such, he designed 40 vistas that included farms, forests, rivers, mountains, distant storms, and clouds. Of those 40, 19 were chosen for the final installation.

When the restoration project started, MARTA riders look note.

“Our patrons were really engaged in the process over the three weeks it took to bring the murals back to life, with many stopping to talk to and thank the restorers for their efforts,” Dirga said.

MARTA station: Ashby

Type of artwork: Glass mosaic

Artist: Lev Mills

Original installation date: 1979

During the creative process, artist Lev Mills worked with an architect to come up with a theme for the Ashby artwork. They settled on a reflection of Ashby’s past and present as a way to familiarize commuters with that community’s life and history as a prosperous black business section.

On the top platform, “Labyrinth of the Phoenix” represents the Egyptian symbol of life. On the downstairs platform, “Echo I” and “Echo II” symbolize human moods with colors.

Each mosaic was created using tens of thousands of tiny pieces of glass mosaic ranging in size from 1/8 to 1/4 inches square. Through the years, those bits of glass accumulated a thick layer of brake dust as trains came to a halt in the station. Restorers carefully cleaned the glass to bring back its color and clarity.

“The resulting murals glitter now, with their thousands of tiny surfaces reflecting back the light,” Dirga said.

MARTA station: Five Points

Type of artwork: Architecture

Architect: Walter I. Downing

Original build date: 1901

Rebuilt in station: 1977

During construction of the Five Points station in 1977, area buildings had to be removed to create the needed space for the transit system.

One of those buildings was the Eiseman Clothing building; however, rather than just tear it down, architect Jon Carlsten suggested preserving the Renaissance Revival facade of the building and incorporating it into the new station. Through a painstaking process, the builders were able to do just that.

The portion of the facade visible in the MARTA station originally stood high in the air on the Eiseman Clothing building. Thanks to its new location, though, riders can closely see the details in the sculpted figures and gargoyles.

If they have a fine eye, they may see something extra.

“Supposedly, the outline of a dog’s head is in the leaf pattern somewhere, a visual joke by the original sculptor,” Dirga said.