Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) Arts & Design
“Extremely popular with the riding public, the art cards and posters bring art and inspiration to millions of riders, providing a burst of color to the daily commute. Three new art cards as well as two posters will be seen in subway system throughout the MTA system. The art pieces are exhibited throughout the year within the subway cars and for several months on the station platforms, allowing for a close-up experience with the artworks.
MTA Arts & Design commissions three to five artists each year to create transit-related graphic art that appears on the horizontal interior panels in subway cars and also the vertically-oriented spaces on station platform walls amongst the advertising posters. The MTA initiated the Art Card Program in 1999, modeled after the Poster Program, which began in 1991 as a means of enhancing the station environment.” – from MTA News (http://www.mta.info/news-art-cards-art-poster-mta-arts-design/2018/02/16/mta-arts-design-unveils-new-posters-subway)
I was so honored to be commissioned by MTA Arts & Design to create a subway station poster for their Art Card and Poster Program 2018. When I received an email from AD Lydia, I certainly had a secret Pentecostal praise break (without my church tambourine though*). The entire experience from the thumbnails to sketches, from the sketch to a drawing and inking, then coloring in Photoshop were all exciting and vivid throughout the process.
My concept was “This is your mic, this is your stage. You are the voice, you are the star!” Harlem has such a rich history, a mecca of art and music, and the heart of the black and brown culture… All kinds of ethnic minorities live in this neighborhood. I lived in Harlem for a short period of time. The neighborhood was so eventful–block parties, police activities, church, music,,, I dreamed about Harlem since I was a kid–it was my la la land. Harlem is tough and warm, passionate and caring… but also it faces many issues–housing inequality, racial inequality, police brutality, etc. I wanted to create a poster that makes people a star, a singer, a poet… Whoever stands in front of my poster, I hope they see a microphone right away! Also it was very important to show the diversity–the representation does matter!
In my art making process, there is a traditional process involved with mixed media (pencil, oil pastels, ink, and gouache), so its original drawing was massive and challenging compared to my norm for editorial pieces, yet it was such a pure joy. The coloring process, which is normally taken place in Adobe Photoshop, required gallons of coffee and scotch tape on my both eyelids to meet its deadline, but again, I was very excited for this project.
Finally, a year after the deadline, the poster we created is out in public (from September 2018 for 6 month long). I am so grateful to be a part of the MTA history, and hopefully my artwork would make a New Yorker’s commute more exciting and enjoyable.
In 2020, my poster became a puzzle from New York Puzzle Company. Please take a look at their website! https://www.newyorkpuzzlecompany.com/products/harlem-serenade?variant=31840818069613