Underground Sights to See

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If your New Year’s resolutions involve stopping and smelling the roses just a bit more than you did last year, here are a couple items of interest for New York commuters on the go. HBO is erecting an interactive billboard at the Times Square subway station to promote the polygamy series Big Love. It’s interactive because passers-by can stick their headphones into the billboard to learn the deepest, darkest secrets of the people depicted on it.

“Everyone has something to hide,” goes the slogan, as everyone in Big Love has something they wouldn’t want ol’ Jehovah to know about.

Interestingly, notes the New York Times, the same campaign in Los Angeles gives out disposable headphones to passers-by, while New Yorkers are expected to provide their own–presumably because most of us are not driving to work.

Uptown a few more stops, the Times marks 20 years of that funky tile art at the 86th Street Station on Broadway. The objets d’art aren’t noteworthy for their artistic value, says reporter Martin Espinoza, but for the Ordinary Joes (and Jose’s) that created them.

These are no masterpieces. Most of the young people who created them were troubled or struggling students trying to earn their high school equivalency degree. Were the murals to be removed and sold, they probably would not fetch anywhere near as much as the 200 subway art projects by professional artists commissioned since 1985 by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s Arts for Transit program.

But their value is measured in other ways, especially to the students who created them and to a neighborhood that has grown accustomed to them since they were installed in August 1989.

Looking back on a community art project that left a lasting impression on their lives, for some of the students it was a turning point. Others say they wish they had left a more personal mark on history. “When I see it now, I see all the love that I put in that work,” said Leeama Scott, 44, who was a young immigrant from Trinidad when she worked on the murals.

[photo: NY Times]

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