On most train rides, there aren’t a whole lot of reasons to look up from your free daily newspaper. Far from scenic, SEPTA’s corridors tend to be, at best, gray, industrial spaces punctuated by piles of tires, broken bottles and what we hope are skinny-tailed squirrels.
But starting this spring, commuters between the 30th Street and North Philadelphia stations might want to take a peek out the window. Created by buzzed-about Berlin-based painter Katharina Grosse and installed by a team of local Philly artists, “psychylustro” is the Mural Arts Program’s latest splash of unexpected color. The large-scale, seven-part abstract installation was designed specifically for the corridor and meant to be viewed through quickly moving train windows by the almost 34,000 daily passengers.
“We want to provide a surprising experience,” says Elizabeth Thomas, curator of “psychylustro.” “The vast majority of people who see this won’t know what’s going on. It creates an experience in itself, in real time, but it also calls people to attention, to interacting with the rest of the world.”
Unlike most murals, “psychylustro” is designed to gradually fade back into its industrial surroundings. Although temporary, Thomas hopes it changes the way we think about these corridors — at once familiar, unremarkable stretches of the city and yet full of mystery and possibility. “We’re looking at the way these spaces are used and could be used,” she says. “This is a gateway to the city for both people who commute everyday and tourists.”
The work is being installed April 29 though mid-May and will be up indefinitely — until it fades — so make sure to look out the window should your commute take you between 30th Street and the North Philadelphia stations (Amtrak trains to New York, SEPTA’s Chestnut Hill West and Trenton lines, and New Jersey Transit’s Atlantic City line). On May 18, Katharina Grosse will give an artist’s talk at the Art Museum.
The corridor now: