By ELLEN ENDO, Rafu Shimpo
Looking across the expanse of the new plaza atop the Little Tokyo/Arts District Regional Connector subway station, it’s difficult to imagine that same space soon teeming with commuters when the station opens on June 16.
While much of the pre-opening conversation has been accompanied by a collective sigh of relief from Little Tokyo and Arts District folks, the Regional Connector experience became real last Friday when a group from the two communities was invited to take a close look beneath the surface.
Those who toured the new station at First Street and Central Avenue were initially struck by how spotless it is. The light rail trains were similarly immaculate. Inevitably, there is also skepticism as to how long the trains and station could be maintained in that condition.
Throughout the 10 years of its conceptualization and construction, less hoopla has been accorded the artwork that now gives personality to the new station as well as Downtown’s two other new stations — Grand Avenue/Bunker Hill and Historic Broadway — that literally “connect the region” to places farther than imagined a decade ago.
Works by Asian American artists Audrey Chan and Pearl C. Hsiung are among the eight selected for installation at the three locations.
Chan’s piece, entitled “Will Power Allegory,” can be found at the Little Tokyo station. It consists of 14 vignettes along the subway platform walls, stretching 168 feet and depicting people and symbols from the storied history of Little Tokyo, Arts District, Skid Row, Bronzeville, and the Gabrielino-Tongva tribe. The artist describes her work as “a new public allegory of Los Angeles as a site of remembrance and resistance.” Chan is an L.A.-based artist, illustrator, and writer who has been awarded fellowships with the National Center for the Preservation of Democracy, California Arts Council, and California Community Foundation.
Hsiung’s work, “High Prismatic,” can be found at the Grand Avenue/Bunker Hill station and reaches 61 feet top to bottom. Reflecting on the geological, anthropological and cultural histories of the area surrounding the station, Hsiung depicts a geyser-like image reflecting “the dramatic forces of endless change that bubble and erupt in nature and human nature…which have shaped the Bunker Hill area.” The Taiwan-born artist’s paintings, installations, and video works have been exhibited extensively throughout the U.S., Asia, Europe, and Mexico.
At the entrance pavilion of the Historic Broadway station, artist Andrea Bowers incorporates messages of “unity and democracy” through a 103-foot-long piece inspired by the station’s location next to the former L.A. Times headquarters and Civic Center, often the site of demonstrations, rallies, marches, and other public events.
Other artists represented are Mark Steven Greenfield, Ann Hamilton, Clare Rojas, Mungo Thomson, and Clarence Williams.
Photos by ELLEN ENDO/Rafu Shimpo