Halls of art slated for transit terminal

Catching a bus or train in San Francisco several years from now could involve entering a cavernous work of art created through a collaborative effort between prominent architects and artists.

Plans are under way to demolish, rebuild and reopen the Transbay Transit Center at First and Mission streets by 2015, and officials recently approved incorporating $3.5 million worth of work by five artists into the $1.6 billion project. The money will pay for materials, labor, travel and other expenses.

“This is art that will basically be integrated into the design of the station,” Transbay Joint Powers Authority Executive Director Maria Ayerdi-Kaplan said during a recent hearing. “There will be more opportunities for stand-alone art.”

Three of the artists selected for the project are based in California and two are from New York. They will receive at least $15,000 each to develop proposals for works they hope to incorporate on the walls and other areas of the new transit center, following a recent vote by Joint Powers Authority directors.

A public park will grace the center’s rooftop, a bus terminal will occupy the first level, shopping opportunities will greet visitors on the ground floor and a subterranean train station will serve high-speed rail and Caltrain, plans show.

Artists’ proposals are due early next year, according to Jill Manton, director of programs at the San Francisco Arts Commission, which is spearheading the project. They will work with architects to incorporate the art into the transit center’s design plans, according to Manton.

“If we lose any more time, we will end up with what is commonly known as plunk art,” Manton told Joint Powers Authority directors before they voted to approve the project.

The term “plunk art” typically refers to art that’s taken from a gallery or elsewhere and put on public display in a new location.

The selected artists’ portfolios are strikingly diverse.

SoMa-based artist Julie Chang creates complex patterns and images on textiles, wallpapers and other media.  Ned Kahn designed installations for the Exploratorium before shifting to Sebastopol, where he continues to explore fog, wind, fire, light and sand in his work.

Los Angeles-based artist Timothy Hawkinson creates complex sculptures that are often mechanized.

New York-based artists Jenny Holzer and James Carpenter were also selected from a pool of more than 1,500 hopefuls, according to Manton.

jupton@sfexaminer.com

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