As the Founder and CEO of SubArt, Rachel is working to improve the rider experience in BART and Muni metro stations. Her place-making expertise and advocacy is applied toward making San Francisco more beautiful.
What is SubArt and how did you get involved?
Some of the best ideas come while in the shower or on vacation. SubArt was created while I was on vacation—on my honeymoon, actually—in Buenos Aires, Argentina. My husband and I rode their metro to the many districts, museums, and parks. Along the way we were inspired by the performance and visual art in the city’s underground.
From Moscow’s underground “People’s Palaces” to Stockholm’s subway corridor considered “the world’s longest art gallery,” cities are invigorating their metro stations with art and design. Cities on every continent—from Tehran, Iran, to Santiago, Chile, to Pyongyang, North Korea—are bringing art and culture into the underground and inspiring the daily lives of millions of people.
In the SF Bay Area, our most heavily used public space—our underground metro system—is grim and out of date. By revitalizing this space with immersive art and design, we can improve the daily experience for over ½ million people, attract new riders to our public transit system, and create an inspiring sense of place underground that will reflect the creativity above ground.
Since 2011, SubArt has worked to enhance the rider experience in the Bay Area’s metro stations. As the catalyst of the art program at BART, SubArt continues to promote large-scale art and design, to create reports regarding the benefits of art in transit, and to build partnerships that will facilitate greater public participation in the redesign of our underground metro stations.
People expect transit stations to be clean and safe, what will art add?
The presence of art in transit stations has been found to reduce crime and vandalism, and increase safety of the environment. Artwork can make riders feel more secure by assisting them in navigating confusing, often unfamiliar subterranean territory. People can perceive a station as dangerous because of poor general appearance, low lighting levels, or lack of maintenance. In addition, art and artful design can be an effective way to break the “cycle of fear” and attract new riders. An increase in ridership activates public space. This ensures more surveillance from other passengers and a reduction in both fear and actual crime risk.
The healthcare industry recognizes that art reduces stress and anxiety and has a positive impact on health and emotional well-being. In hospitals, for example, the presence of artwork has been shown to improve patient care, lessen the stress of Emergency Room waiting areas, and control aggressive behavior. The presence of art in the transit environment can reduce the stress of travel and make waiting on platforms more pleasant, engaging, and inspiring.
Imagine, a commute that is safe and inspiring.
What do you think of the current draft of the BART Art Policy and its impacts on our community?
BART’s Board of Directors is discussing the creation of an art program and dedicating 1-2% of capital project funds toward art and artful design within the transit stations. As BART embarks on the revitalization of the system through art and design, SubArt promotes best practices modeled throughout the world, including:
- Dedicating a minimum of 2% toward art,
- Creating large-scale art and design to maximize a positive impact on the rider experience,
- Involving artists and designers early in the station redesign process, and
- Establishing a public-private partnership to help facilitate greater community involvement and participation.
On May 28th, it’s anticipated that BART’s Board will vote on the creation of a funded art program. The public is encouraged to express their support to ensure the program has funding to create a positive impact on our daily commute.
How could art in underground stations support the efforts to improve Market Street above?
Throughout the world, art in transit stations underground often reflects the vibrancy and creativity of the communities and neighborhoods above-ground.
In San Francisco, art can elevate our transit stations into welcoming, pleasurable, and memorable places that can also serve as gateways into the neighborhoods they represent. By building into BART and Muni metro an extension of the rich arts and cultures that can be explored above ground, the transit corridors can become a vibrant nexus, connecting residents and visitors to the diversity of neighborhoods that define our city and the region as a whole.