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Art In Transit

Celebrating Black Art in Transit

February 11, 2021

Philadelphia has long been known as an important center for African American history, culture - and art. SEPTA is proud to host one-of-a-kind art installations throughout our system as part of our Art in Transit Program. In honor of Black History Month, we're highlighting those created by Black artists.

46th Street El Dancers found at 46th Street Station on the Market-Frankford Line and created by Barbara Jane Bullock evokes music, language, memory, grace and joy for riders journeying through the station. The dancers' limbs are curved and positioned in graceful and strong movements that suggest the energy and spirit of Jazz, Soul, Blues and Praise Music. The proximity of the station to what was once the American Bandstand broadcast studio provides the opportunity to reflect on the rich history of dance in Philadelphia through this installation.

Over her fifty-year career, Barbara Bullock (born 1938) has created art inspired by the mythology and culture of Africa and its diaspora. Her work has evolved from figural to abstract, most recently ruminating on questions of identity, belief, gender, and the artistic process. Born and raised in North Philadelphia and Germantown, Bullock grew up learning art in public school. She went on to train at the Fleisher Art Memorial, the Hussian School of Art, and the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. Among Bullock’s most notable awards are two-time recognition as a Distinguished Teaching Artist by the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, a Pew Fellowship in the Arts, a Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation Visual Arts Residency Grant, and a Leeway Foundation Bessie Berman Grant. Her work has been exhibited across the United States and is in the permanent collection of numerous museums and foundations in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Today she resides in Germantown.

I describe my entire body of work as "Chasing after Spirits". I am a visual artist creating works on paper. My medium, collage, my materials, acrylic paints, 300 and 140 lb. water color paper, matte medium as adhesive and mixed media. My work embodies research identity and the gathering of elements of African American retentions, evoking residues of dreams, images, and intuitive memories, creating visual stories that reach back into ancestral histories, and stories that impact the here and now. Evolving over time, my work is becoming stronger and more sculptural - abstract - layered with texture, creating a visual language that explores energies and color, experimenting with new forms that impact, on gender, belief, and survival of the spirit.

- Barbara Bullock

Reflections on 7 Steps to Heaven at 60th Street Station on the Market-Frankford Line by Victor Johnson & David Stephens expresses the possibilities for the future of this community by using images from its past and present. The 60th & Market Street corridors were then, as now, commercial and cultural hubs around which stores, clubs, dance halls, and small entertainment and cultural enterprises such as music and dance studios thrived. The two, 7' by 70' painted steel panels, incorporate a patchwork pattern reminiscent of American quilts with images showing the past ethnic, cultural and economic texture and diversity of this community along with reflections from today. The word "Reflections" and the "Seven Steps to Heaven" refer respectively to Thelonious Monk and Miles Davis compositions that are emblematic of the vibrancy of the period.

Victor Johnson studied art in high school and throughout his life. Now retired, he devotes himself to painting in oils and acrylic. A self-declared "realist" - he paints people, places, and things.

I see something that is beautiful to me I want to save and share it with others. My goal is to paint and paint until I get it right.‚Äč 

- Victor Johnson

Born in Washington, DC, and raised for the most part in Philadelphia, David Stephens' lifelong trek took him from Baltimore to Philadelphia to New York back to DC and then when invited by Brandywine Workshop founder Allan Edmunds to work as program director, he returned to Philadelphia. In 1971, he was featured in Art International, Art in America, and Artforum as a talent to watch. By today's standards, that type of attention would mark him as an emerging superstar. Declared legally blind in 1979 due to glaucoma, the renowned Philadelphia artist continued to produce works that reveal a dynamic, sharp vision. By 2001, he could only detect movement. He eventually attended the Blind Institute and Services of Maryland, where he learned braille and blind mobility. In fact - many of Stephens' sculptures contain large, illegible braille characters - perhaps symbolically representing his own relationship to the new language he mastered late in life as he works with visualization, form, and memory.

I visualize my work mentally like someone who can see; you conceptualize it. For the most part, I work alone, but sometimes with assistance to mix colors and grid the braille.

- David Stephens

SEPTA's Art in Transit Program grew out of a belief that aesthetic enhancement at stations and facilities could be an integral component of broader community outreach and partnership building efforts. SEPTA stations, transportation centers, and headhouses are visible community landmarks known to riders and non-riders alike. By using permanent art installations to create a dynamic transit environment, we seek to strengthen our identity as the region's public transit provider while fostering an enhanced sense of pride and ownership for riders and the neighbors living in the area surrounding a station.