Arts in Transit, Inc. (AIT) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization under the organizational umbrella of Bi-State Development (BSD). AIT serves the bi-state area by facilitating public art programs and community engagement projects on the Metro Transit system in the St. Louis, Missouri region. Our mission is to support the creation and integration of excellent art and design within the Metro Transit system in order to enhance the transit experience and to connect bi-state area communities to the arts.
AIT has commissioned more than 150 temporary and permanent public art installations throughout the landscape of St. Louis City and St. Louis County. These installations enrich the Metro Transit user experience and contribute to the social and economic well-being of the community. AIT provides innovative programming that connects the community to the arts, including educational opportunities for students. Educating younger generations about the importance of public art ensures the survival of and appreciation for the arts in the future. Public art installations, as well as collaborations with organizations and artists, enhance the region’s appreciation of the arts.
AIT provides unique opportunities for local, regional, national, and international artists to create new pieces and to display existing work. This allows St. Louis area residents to experience the work of a broad range of artists and to participate in the arts themselves. Programs and educational activities engage the community, connect people to the arts, enhance the region’s public transportation system, and contribute to the vitality and vibrancy of the St. Louis region.
AIT is overseen by a five-member Board of Directors appointed by the Bi-State Development Board of Commissioners. Providing leadership to the organization, the board is made up of community members with diverse cultural and professional backgrounds from the visual arts, design, urban development, education, and business communities.
The organization is staffed by the Marketing and Communications division of BSD and contracted professional service providers.
In 1986, Arts in Transit was established by a group of St. Louis citizens who envisioned a light rail system that transcended mundane concrete station platforms and steel rails. This group promoted the idea of a transit system influenced by the imagination of artists. AIT’s primary role was to establish and coordinate a unique collaboration of artists, engineers, and architects on the design of the rail system. This award-winning approach produced the largest American infrastructure project, up to that time, to have its signature elements influenced by artists’ designs. This established a continuity of design that has been replicated in subsequent MetroLink system expansions. The result was a first-class system that exceeded all ridership expectations.
While construction of the first phase of MetroLink was in progress, AIT launched ArtLink, a series of temporary public art installations by regional and national artists along the developing route. These works brought community awareness and excitement to the developing transit system. AIT further encouraged community interest in MetroLink with speakers, neighborhood art exhibits, school programs, and the launching of the AIT Art Bus program. A MetroBus vehicle, painted with a transit theme, served as a traveling gallery exhibition of AIT projects. AIT became a catalyst for enabling neighborhood residents to weave the integration of MetroLink stations into the fabric of their communities.
On April 23, 1999, the Bi-State Development Board of Commissioners adopted a resolution establishing a percentage for art and design funding mechanism for future rail and bus expansion projects. This policy established that one percent of construction funds for publicly accessible facilities and up to one percent of federal formula funds would be allocated for public art. The decision to adopt this policy was the result of years of successful arts programming by AIT. Now, with a reliable source of funding, AIT could continue the creation of meaningful public art.
In the spirit of the original artist design team, AIT contracted with three artists, Sally Appelbaum, Cliff Garten, and Libby Reuter, to develop an integrated art and design plan for the new MetroLink Blue Line (the working title for the project was then known as Cross County). Many of the recommendations from this plan were folded into the project. The most notable design contributions were the retaining walls designed by Libby Reuter that run along several areas of the light rail alignment.
In 2004, AIT began selecting artists to create eight major artworks at seven of the MetroLink stations under construction for the Blue Line. This resulted in AIT’s largest commitment to public art to date. Two of the chosen artists were St. Louisans, while the remaining artists were from other cities around the country. While the Blue Line street-level stations shared the same architectural elements as the original MetroLink stations (now the Red Line), these new Blue Line stations had additional “stand alone” artworks. This, in AIT’s view, created a disparity between the Red Line and the Blue Line. This issue was addressed by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009.
Bi-State Development received ARRA funds to rehabilitate the historic Eads Bridge, and one percent funding for public art. To date, art projects have been commissioned for the UMSL South Transit Center, Rock Road Transit Center, Wellston Transit Center, Delmar Loop Transit Center, Forest Park-DeBaliviere Transit Center, Union Station MetroLink Station, Civic Center Transit Center, Stadium MetroLink Station, and Laclede’s Landing MetroLink Station for the Red Line. But AIT was not done yet.
The Bi-State Development Board of Commissioners authorized the establishment of a 501(c)(3) non-profit, Arts in Transit, Inc. The impetus for this action was to expand AIT’s eligibility for governmental and private foundation grant funding.
To improve marketing and communication collaboration with Metro Transit’s parent organization Bi-State Development, AIT became part of the Bi-State Development Marketing & Communication Division.
A change in policy by the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), an agency within the U. S. Department of Transportation (DOT) that provides financial and technical assistance to public transportation systems, eliminated funding for the arts in transit projects.
AIT established a new community-based board separate from Bi-State Development. This new structure was created to broaden AIT’s outreach to the community and enhance its capacity to secure funding from individuals, foundations, and business entities. It also provides an important framework to ensure that future programs and area transit projects, including MetroLink expansion and MetroBus system enhancements, will become active, attractive, vital assets of the region’s neighborhoods and increase the community access to the arts.
MetroLines is AIT’s annual poetry program. It has become one of the premier poetry contests in the St. Louis region. The MetroLines poetry contest is announced each spring, and poets of all ages can submit up to three poems for consideration. A professional panel of poets and literary experts review the submissions and select up to 15 poems for publication. The poets are paid a stipend for the use of their poems. The winning poems are then published in specially designed posters that integrate the text with complementary imagery. The poems are exhibited on the interior of MetroBus vehicles and MetroLink trains for at least one year. In the fall, AIT hosts the poets at a public poetry reading along with a noted guest poet who reads a selection of his/her work.
The MetroLines contest opens annually in May, and the deadline for submissions is in July. For more information about entering the MetroLines contest, visit the Opportunities page https://www.artsintransit.org/opportunities.
MetroScapes originated in 2015 to create a more pleasing and engaging atmosphere at area MetroBus shelters and Metro Transit Centers in some of the communities served by Metro Transit. The program’s goals are to bring public art to a broad and diverse audience, and to support St. Louis area artists.
MetroScapes is an annual, juried competition open to regional artists and designers. Ten outstanding images, which can be new or existing, are selected by a panel of judges and reproduced onto posters that are displayed in MetroBus shelters and Metro Transit Centers throughout the bi-state area for one year. The artists receive a cash award and retain the rights to their artworks. Smaller poster reproductions are available for sale.
The submission process opens annually in July, and the deadline is in September. Visit the “Opportunities” page, https://www.artsintransit.org/opportunities, to find information about entering the MetroScapes competition.
Art in Motion gives local organizations and not-for-profits in the St. Louis region the opportunity to create rolling murals on MetroBus vehicles to raise awareness for their organizations and to promote their visions, messages and missions. AIT has an ever-expanding roster of local artists who are regularly contracted to design the bus murals. AIT works with interested organizations to select an artist to create a design for the bus and help oversee its execution at a public painting event.
If you are interested in commissioning an Art in Motion Bus to promote your organization, contact AIT. Information can be found on the “Contact Us” page: https://www.artsintransit.org/contact-us/.
Public Art Curriculum Kit is an object-centered, interdisciplinary curriculum kit designed for primary use by local educators in high schools and middle schools that focuses on artworks by international, national and local artists in AIT’s collection. The purpose of the kit is to serve as an enrichment tool in all subject areas and to foster literacy, as well as develop critical skills including hypothesizing, making connections, generating multiple interpretations, and sequencing through observation, research, writing, and art production.
If you are interested in acquiring a Public Art Curriculum Kit for your classroom, contact AIT. Information can be found on the “Contact Us” page: https://www.artsintransit.org/contact-us/.