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'Q Is for Queens' Lights Up the Flushing Line
Karen Kawaguchi -- 3/13/00
Heo created 30 works, which were installed
in three New York City subway stations.
Leaping beyond the printed pages of One Afternoon, Pets and So Say the Little Monkeys, children's book illustrator Yumi Heo has recently completed a major public arts work for the Metropolitan Transit Authority in New York City. Heo developed the concept for the project, called Q Is for Queens, shortly after completing her picture book, A Is for Asia, in 1996. Q Is for Queens consists of 30 works, executed in colored facet glass, depicting landmarks, people and events in one of New York City's most ethnically diverse boroughs. As part of a station renovation program, these works were recently installed in the 33rd Street (Rawson), 40th Street (Lowery) and 46th Street (Bliss Street) elevated train stations on the Flushing #7 line.On a bright, windy day, PW accompanied Heo to view her artwork, which literally runs from A to Z, with four additional pieces showing aspects of city life, including trains, a neighborhood street and the Queensboro Bridge. Starting with A Is for Aqueduct Raceway at 33rd Street and ending with Z Is for Zoo (Queens Wildlife Center) at 46th Street, the work vibrates with color, energy and light. Installed in the mezzanine and platform levels, these luminous works provide a visual respite for people waiting in the stations.

"The artwork gives a sampling of ethnic as well as traditional flavors, from the lunar New Year dragon to Shea Stadium," said Aida Gonzalez-Jarrin, director of cultural affairs,in the office of Claire Shulman, Queens borough president. "It represents what Queens is all about."

After Heo's concept was selected by the MTA, she researched events and landmarks in Queens, with advice from Gonzalez-Jarrin. "In 1997, I was pregnant with my son and walked all over Queens in the heat," Heo recalled. She developed a series of drawings and paintings, and then made actual-size cartoons for the glass fabricators who translated her work into its final form.

Kendal Henry, a manager for MTA Arts for Transit, worked with Heo throughout this project. A regular commuter on the #7 train, he has heard riders talking about the work. "The reaction has been really positive," Henry said. "The MTA will have a celebration of Yumi's work after renovation of the stations is completed."

Heo has been busy on other projects, with two books, Yoshi's Feast by Kimiko Kajikawa (DK Ink) and Arthur's First-Moon Birthday Album by Lenore Look (S&S/Atheneum), to be published this year. She also recently made a presentation about her work at America's Millennium Celebration in Washington, D.C., sponsored by the Smithsonian Institution and the White House.
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