New York City-based fans of children’s literature are being treated to an unspoken delight on their daily commutes these days. One of the many projects the Metropolitan Transit Authority’s Arts and Design team oversees is a poster campaign in which illustrators – many of which are children’s book creators – are commissioned to create pieces that “respond to the place of New York.” The MTA – which runs the New York subway system, as well as the Long Island Rail Road and MetroNorth commuter rail – has “enliven[ed] the customer’s commute” for 30 years with its Arts and Design program, department deputy director Amy Hausmann told PW. One part of the many projects the Arts and Design team oversees is a poster campaign in which illustrators – many of which are children’s book illustrators – are commissioned to create pieces that “respond to the place of New York.”
MTA Arts and Design’s graphics program has been around for “15 to 20 years,” Hausmann said, and it began its “art card” program in 2001. The art cards are perhaps the most iconic product of the MTA’s involvement with the visual arts, in which horizontal images are created to fill unused advertising space. Five or six illustrators from all backgrounds, not limited only to children’s illustration, are chosen every year to create both posters and art cards, which stay up for the whole year and then are sold online, at the New York Transit Museum store in Brooklyn, and at Grand Central Terminal to “support the curatorial initiatives at the museum,” Hausmann said.
While the Arts and Design department scours a number of sources to find illustrators, including social media, art exhibitions, and illustration annuals, Hausmann and her team have also been inspired by picture books on bookstore shelves. Among children’s book illustrators with posters and art cards out this year are Ashley Bryan, Jillian Tamaki, and James Ransome. Artists Frank Viva, Peter Sís, R. Gregory Christie, and Sophie Blackall are among the many notable children’s illustrators who have previously contributed to the program. The program itself has even earned medals from the Society of Illustrators.
Aside from art cards and posters, the team is also responsible for “a wide range of special projects,” Hausmann said, including another new project featuring children’s illustrator Chris Sickles. Sickles, the artist behind Red Nose Studios, has recently created an digital animated short that plays in the Fulton Street station in lower Manhattan. And for anyone, New Yorker or otherwise, who wants to keep up on all of the department’s varied projects, such as the Alice in Wonderland mosaics at the 50th Street station, the team maintains a robust Instagram account.
|Art card by Jillian Tamaki. Click image to view a larger size.
The latest crop of posters, including James Ransome’s, which was inspired by a MetroNorth ride along the Hudson River, and Jillian Tamaki’s piece, inspired by the “little moments before getting on the train,” Hausmann said, and told in a sequential, comic-like style, brings together a multitude of diverse takes on a theme that is common to almost 1.8 billion people a year: riding New York City mass transit. Hausmann’s team’s mission, she said, is to “create a moment in the daily commute that hopefully changes your day for the better.”