From Phoenix to Mesa, Here's Your Guide to Public Art on the Light Rail

Looking for a diverse assortment of art by artists in and beyond Arizona? Consider jumping on the Valley Metro Light Rail, where you'll find dozens of artworks from terrazzo floors infused with historical themes to towering sculptures inspired by local plants and people. To get the full effect, travel the light rail during both day and evening, so you can enjoy the many works that are illuminated after dark. Here's a guide to what you'll find along light rail routes in Phoenix, Tempe, and Mesa.

Matthew & Maria Salenger
coLAB Studio
Dunlap Venue
19th Avenue/Dunlap Avenue

Tempe architects and coLAB Studio founders Matthew and Maria Salenger created two installations for the 19th Avenue/Dunlap station. For the station’s park-and-ride area, they designed nine lemon yellow cones featuring laser-cut images – inspired by drawings made by local students asked to re-imagine their schools – that are suspended from a 3,600-square-foot open canopy. For the station platform, they created red raspberry-colored metal panels featuring architectural designs created for Phoenix during the last century but never built.

Deborah Mersky
Nectar Corridor
19th Avenue/Northern Avenue

Texas artist Deborah Mersky designed bright yellow metal screens and terrazzo carpets set in concrete, which reference the importance of pollination and the fact that migration is an experience shared by humans and other creatures. Together, they present imagery of cactus, blooming flowers, bats, birds, bees, and moths – each reminding viewers of the essential role traveling toward particular destinations plays within nature.

Franka Diehnelt & Claudia Reisenberger
Merge Conceptual Design
Aritz Ona
19th Avenue/Glendale Avenue

California artists and co-owners of the artist collective Merge Conceptual Design Franka Diehnelt and Claudia Reisenberger created an installation inspired by the possible origin of the name “Arizona” in a Basque word for “the good oak tree.” The installation comprises five abstract trees with metal sequin leaves that throw shadows onto the station platform in order to replicate the feel of taking a nature walk.

Robert Adams
Montebello Avenue/19th Avenue

Phoenix artist Robert Adams worked with the architect for the initial terminus of the light rail to create a sleek, modern aesthetic that includes 76 dichromatic panels painted with metallic purple paint installed atop station columns. They’re perforated in various sizes and locations to create a moiré effect. Look for more of Adams’ work when you visit the Phoenix Art Museum or Phoenix Theatre, where a long passageway features his Hall of Mirrors with shifting red and blue lighting.

Josh Garber
19th Avenue/Camelback Road

Chicago artist Josh Garber created a 30-foot sculpture called Lucent comprising a series of segments, with each rising out of the segment below to create “an abstract, organic edifice.” The sculpture’s exterior surface, created with more than 40,000 aluminum bars, reflects the natural light as it shifts through the day. At night, the work is illuminated by colored light along the bottom portion of each section. The design was inspired by conversations with community members who spoke of wanting a “jewel” for their neighborhood that could be spotted from a distance.

Nubia Owens
Seventh Avenue/Camelback Road

Phoenix artist Nubia Owens created more than 200 terrazzo pavers that wind through various parts of the platform, using imagery that “ranges from the straightforward to the metaphysical” and from “obvious to abstract.” Several reference the local environment or the natural world, and all are meant to reinforce the idea that it’s sometimes better to travel than to arrive.

Ilan Averbuch
Landmark, Trough, Seat and Tree
Central Avenue/Camelback Road

New York artist Ilan Averbuch created a 24-foot ring of desert stones called Landmark, which references the Hopi belief that life is a circle we all enter at a particular point. He also created two smaller-scale sculptures installed nearby, titled Trough and Seat and Tree, inspired by “the area’s original canals and water systems."

Al Price
Campbell Avenue/Central Avenue

Local artist and former teacher Al Price used the shape of a hyperbolic parabola to create a three-dimensional grid meant to convey a sense of undulation and flow. Price created Hyperbolics using 32 stainless-steel truss arcs woven into four twisted waves.

Mary Lucking
Here We Are
Indian School Road/Central Avenue

Tucson artist Mary Lucking’s Here We Are is installed adjacent to Steele Indian School Park, which was once home to the Phoenix Indian School. Lucking tells the stories of those who lived here during the mid-20th century using glass panels, terrazzo flooring, and columns containing photo panels.

Tom Sayre
Tapping Time
Osborn Road/Central Avenue

North Carolina artist Tom Sayre created Tapping Time by bronze casting various types of foot- and shoe-prints that reflect the diversity of people using the light rail. Some are barefoot, others in work boots. Some wear footwear traditional in other countries. It’s meant to conjure the images of 100 people boarding or exiting a light rail train at the station. Those who look carefully will see imprints of moccasins, flip flops, cowboy boots, and military boots, as well as bronze markings for a cane, wheelchair, and stroller.

Brian Goldbloom
Thomas Road/Central Avenue

Washington artist Brian Goldbloom created a sequential series of carvings set on cylinders that allow viewers to turn them as they explore images showing the “eventual emergence by degrees of the presence of water, indications of life, and finally, details of an encroaching civilization." He also created several granite benches showing the ways nature is touched by encroaching civilization.

Jamex and Einar De La Torre
Appropriated Identity
Encanto Boulevard/Central Avenue

Artists Jamex and Einar De La Torre, who travel between studios in Mexico and California, created an installation called Appropriated Identity, which features local landmarks coupled with pre-Columbian Indian as well as contemporary cultural motifs. Their installation also includes rotating bronze boxes with narrative imagery inspired by Mayan glyphs, as well as a bronze sculpture meant as a modern iteration on ancient Mayan sculpture.

Michael Maglich
A Thousand Points of Light, Artist on a Hot Tile Roof
McDowell Road/Central Avenue

Phoenix artist Michael Maglich, who passed away in 2007, left behind several works of public art, including his sculptural pieces on the light rail station near Burton Barr Central Library collectively called A Thousand Points of Light and Artist on a Hot Tile Roof, which are full of references to artists and art history, as well as humor. You’ll find more Maglich work — his series of bronze bolo ties created for Phoenix Public Art — installed near a section of the light rail that runs past the Phoenix Convention Center.

Peter Richards
La Sombra Danza
Roosevelt/Central Avenue

San Francisco artist Peter Richards created his La Sombra Danza shade structure for a triangular plaza in Roosevelt Row, which has been activated by local artists with performances including The Light Rail Plays. Richards’ two-layered, kinetic structure includes perforated metal panels that create fun shadows on nearby spaces as the sun shifts around them.

Reis Neimi
Van Buren Street/Central Avenue, Van Buren Street/First Avenue

Washington artist Reis Neimi created a stainless-steel ribbon running along 320-foot railings on either side of the platform. Hand-forged with various textures and grains, they’re meant to convey the sense of movement created by the region’s bustling student population. Neimi’s scroll design references architectural elements of historic buildings as well as classic western leatherwork.

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Lynn Trimble is an award-winning freelance writer and photographer specializing in arts and culture, including visual and performing arts
Contact: Lynn Trimble