main navigation
my pace
English Language Institute Blog

3 Public Art Installations in the New York City Subway

The New York City subway is world class in many ways (not all of them positive), and one of those ways is its support of public art. It will be worth your time to slow down as you traverse this city to and from your Pace University English language courses and take in some of these works of art.

street art NYCThree of my favorite examples of art on display in the MTA are just a few stops away from the English Language Institute at Pace University’s New York City campus.


#1 A hand raising experience @ 34th Street Herald Square

Start at Pace and walk across City Hall Park to the R/W trains at City Hall station. Take either train Uptown to 34th Street Herald Square. Try to board a car in the middle of the train by looking for the black-and-white zebra-striped board. Hop out at 34th Street and, in the middle of the platform, look for Christopher Janney’s “Reach New York, An Urban Musical Instrument”.  Wave your hands to trigger the sensors and add your accompaniment to the regular rumble of the coming and going trains or, perhaps, to some random busker.


#2 Urban legends @ 14th Street/8th Avenue

public art Tom-Otterness sculpture NYCAgain, start at Pace but this time find your way to an A or C train at the Fulton Street station. Take an Uptown train to 14th Street and disembark. This whole station has been done up by the Kansas artist Tom Otterness.  Otterness’ playful sculptures provide social commentary on many aspects of life in the city, including Gotham myths.


#3 We can be heroes… temporarily at least @ Broadway/Lafayette

public subwat art David BowieIn New York, sometimes the best things just don’t last (except, of course, the best ESL schools in America). The same is true for the art in the subway. Whether it’s graffiti, a fake advertisement that suspiciously gets you, or the MTA’s poetry project, some of the art underground is, sadly, temporary.

From now until May 13th, fans of David Bowie can find a memento mori honoring the late musician at the Broadway-Lafayette station. While this station is serviced by the B/D/F/M trains, you can access it easily from the 6 train at the Bleecker Street stop.

From Pace, take the 6 train at Brooklyn Bridge City Hall to Bleecker Street where you will transfer, via an underground passage, to the Broadway-Lafayette station. If you are too late to enjoy this interactive installation, you can always emerge from the underground and go visit one of the hidden gems above ground.



public art fulton street transit station NYC eyeNow that you have several options of places to get your art fix as you commute to and from your intensive English classes, don’t you want to apply today? What places are you psyched to visit when you come to learn English in New York City?

Are there any other subway stations that have art you would like to check out? Perhaps there is something above ground you are especially looking forward to experiencing?  Come to New York to learn English and see them all!


Word list:

  • traverse (v) – to travel across or through
  • take in (v) – to view something or to experience something
  • subway platform (n) – the raised flooring where you wait to board the subway
  • busker (n) – a street performer
  • disembark (v) – to leave or exit a plane, train or other vehiclemMyth (n) – a traditional story of a particular culture
  • do up (v) – to decorate
  • you get me (phrase) – to be understood by someone, it’s like saying “you understand what I am thinking or feeling”
  • graffiti (n) – a writing, drawing or painting on a public surface and in a public place
  • memento mori (n) – something that serves to remind us of our immortality or death
  • hidden gem (n) – a place that is easily overlooked or ignored
  • get your fix (phrase) – to satisfy a craving or desire for something
  • commute (v) – the regular, daily travel method or route from your home to school or work
  • psych (v) – mentally prepared for and excited for something

WRITTEN BY PATRICK RUSSELL