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Art adds color to LIRR stations in Massapequa, Wyandanch

Peter Drake, an artist from Manhattan, stands in

Peter Drake, an artist from Manhattan, stands in front of a stained glass mosaic taken he designed that is located on the platform at the Long Island Rail Road's Massapequa station on Thursday, April 16, 2015. Credit: Steve Pfost

Thousands of Long Island Rail Road customers' commutes are about to become a little more colorful.

Two major art installations are going up: one at the Massapequa station and the other at the new parking garage near the Wyandanch station.

The art, commissioned by the Arts & Design arm of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, aims to add some beauty and culture to larger construction projects taking place at the stations.

"It sort of gives a station a heart, a soul," said Lester Burg, MTA Arts & Design senior manager, who worked with committees in Wyandanch and Massapequa to select the winning proposals from about 200 submissions.

The projects are funded through 1 percent of construction costs. The Wyandanch installation cost the MTA $275,000, while the artwork in Massapequa cost $175,000.

"It shows the people that it's something just for them. This isn't structural or functional," Burg said. "It's something for them to look at and think about while they're in the act of waiting for a train, or coming home on a train."

While artwork often serves as the centerpiece of a rejuvenated LIRR station, the new art installation in Wyandanch has the potential to be more: the artistic centerpiece of a rejuvenated community. The LIRR built the new garage in a land-swap deal with the Town of Babylon as part of the Wyandanch Rising development.

"This notion of art and music . . . helping to drive revitalization has been a key to the Wyandanch Rising project from the beginning," said Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, while visiting the site Friday. "Now we're getting to see the physical manifestation of that in this amazing piece of work going up."

The vibrant abstract painting was created by Philadelphia artist Moe Brooker on a 2-feet-tall canvas, then enlarged onto painted glass windows spanning five stories on the north facade of the structure. The work's title, "Just Jazz," pays tribute to some of the jazz legends who passed through Suffolk County -- and the music that inspired Brooker's artistic vision.

Brooker shook his head in amazement as workers used a crane to install the boldly colored glass panels over the passageway through which thousands of commuters will pass each day.

"I want their attention," said Brooker, 74. "I don't care if you like it. I don't care if you dislike it. What I want you to do is look at it. And I guarantee you if you look at it over a period of time, it will connect to you."

In Massapequa, the winning proposal was submitted by Manhattan artist Peter Drake, a Garden City native.

"Waiting for Toydot" depicts paintings of toy figures from the 1930s -- commuters, conductors and others -- set at railroad stations. They're an homage to Drake's father, who commuted from Garden City for decades, and passed down his collection of lead miniatures to his son when he died.

"So when the opportunity to do the MTA project came up, it seemed like kind of a natural way to bring this memory I have of my father and his toy-collecting together," said Drake, 57, who is excited about having his artwork included in the LIRR's ongoing $40 million renovation of the Massapequa station, which serves more than 17 million riders a year.

"There's really no other delivery system . . . that will reach that many people," Drake said of public art. "It's kind of a remarkable thing."

Workers expect to complete the installation of several mosaic panels featuring Drake's work -- some as large as 8 feet by 4 feet -- this week. Painted glass windows included in the project have adorned the station's waiting room since July.

"I think it's just beautiful," 40-year Massapequa commuter Bill Waskewich, 65, said as he passed the minutes looking at the paintings before his train arrived. "It's not cold. It's not steel and granite. It just adds a little softness."


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