When one thinks of New York City subway art, large mosaic pieces often come to mind. But at 57th Street-7th Avenue, subtlety reigns. The white subway tiles have the names, occupations and date of appearance, of people who appeared on the stage at Carnegie Hall, located just above the station. The Rolling Stones, a “rock ‘n’ roll group” on June 20, 1964. Alexander Graham Bell, “inventor of the telephone” on March 21, 1917. Robert F. Kennedy, “politician and U.S. Attorney General” on October 15, 1964. Helen Keller, “Educator and author” on January 5, 1916. Albert Einstein, “Physicist and scientist” on April 1, 1934, and many more. The names are spread out far enough to seem almost random, but the goal is is to show the range of people who have been on the famous stage. The famous adage, “How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, practice, practice” applies predominantly to the classical musicians, but there are many more ways to get there.
It is one of the subway stations in New York City where there is a direct link between the art below and the built environment above, like the animals in the 81st Street-Museum of Natural History station. As Gino Francesconi, Director of the Archives and Rose Museum at Carnegie Hall said, “I have always felt that the subway station directly below Carnegie Hall should reflect the history of the building just as the subways of Moscow and Paris do their own cultural institutions … It reminds one of the connection between the city and its art.” The station was originally opened in 1919 and the construction of a subway line beneath Carnegie Hall led to the loss of its original steps as the sidewalk needed to be raised. The rehabilitation of the station took place between 1994 and 1995, when this art work was installed.
The names on the subway tiles are part of a larger piece, Carnegie Hall Montage, an MTA Arts & Design work from 1994 by Josh Scharf. The colorful porcelain on steel work is the centerpiece, with the portraits of more who have been on the stage including Martin Luther King Jr., Eleanor Roosevelt, Marian Anderson, Leonard Bernstein, and the Beatles, to the backdrop of the Carnegie Hall facade.
Next, check out the Top 10 Secrets of Carnegie Hall. This author herself has been on the Carnegie Hall stage twice, in her previous life as a cellist.