Art Tours Along the Metro


union statio

We recently got up close and personal with our city’s subway system and the art that makes it extra special. Though public transportation in LA has a ways to go before it becomes the go-to means of getting around, you’d be surprised at how many places Metro will take you. We were even more surprised by the carefully curated public art installations that make riding the rail more than just getting from A to B. Though the works we saw don’t exactly rival artistic landmarks like LACMA or The Getty, they’ll certainly spruce up your underground journey and are a wonderful example of the creativity of these artists.

Metro’s docent program began in 2000 with help from a LACMA affiliate, in response to an increasing demand for information about the art that decorated the stations. And so, the art tours were born. Our docent, Rhona Singer, explained that one requirement for the public art here insists it must somehow recognize both the identity of it’s neighborhood as well as the industry and culture of transportation.

We began in Union Station, which celebrated its 75th anniversary this year. The station was recently bought by Metro, who added onto the original building. The architects, designers, and artists who were involved in the construction of the new building did quite a fine job of keeping it consistent with the original building’s design, particularly by using similar tile. But, the eye-catcher here is a multi-piece work by James Doolin, depicting Los Angeles from an aerial view as it would have appeared in 1870, 1910, 1960, and after 2000.


Walking back into the original Union Station building, you’ll see a large mural by Richard Wyatt entitled City of Dreams. It’s meant to represent the diversity of the people who enter through union station, and stays true to his reputation for honoring historical figures and everyday people (his public art is also at Watts Towers and Capitol Records).


We left Union Station for Hollywood & Vine, but not before watching the faces of actors and actresses flash across our eyes, as depicted by the light installation just above the escalator that takes you down to the trains. A picture couldn’t do it justice, but be sure to spend some time relaxing your eyes enough to really see the images within this piece. It is–for lack of a better description–really trippy.

It took less than 20 minutes to reach the Hollywood & Vine station, which is dotted with very cute and kid-friendly tiles by artist Gilbert “Magu” Lujan in a series he calls Hurray for Hollywood, depicting various famous films (Wizard of Oz was our favorite). Then we worked our way back, stopping at Hollywood & Highland to see two working cameras donated by Paramount and 1600 used film reels that covered the ceiling. Another highlight is the burst of color in the tiles of the Hollywood & Western station, insisted upon by artist May Sun (who is also responsible for the representation of the LA River in Union Station, complete with a 60 gallon saltwater aquarium).


This, and more, is in store for you on a Metro Art Tour that takes place on the first Sunday morning of each month, meeting at 10:00 AM at Union Station information booth. The tour is free and comes with a TAP card that will work until midnight, but it will cost you $14 to park in the lot just outside the entrance. Tours are also given on the first Saturday of each month, and meet at 10:00 AM at the street level entrance to the Hollywood & Highland station. This tour focuses on Hollywood & Highland, North Hollywood, and Universal City/Studio City station. Both tours are two hours long.