The Hive by Elmgreen and Dragset
Nicholas Knight. Courtesy of Empire State Development and Public Art Fund.

Though many New Yorkers probably consider Grand Central Terminal the artsiest locomotive center in New York City, Penn Station certainly puts up a fight. Parts of Penn Station’s original gorgeous Beaux-Arts structure that was demolished in the mid-1960s are buried under the new building that New Yorkers know today. Although Amtrak only acknowledges one remnant remaining, there are indeed over a dozen remnants of the McKim, Mead & White building hiding in plain sight. With the addition of Moynihan Train Hall and the public art initiative Art at Amtrak, there are now also about a half dozen art installations scattered throughout the station.

On July 10, join Untapped New York on a tour of the remnants of Penn Station. Discover the past, present, and future of the station, including the newly opened Moynihan Station. Learn insider navigation tips for one of the most cramped and complicated transit hubs in North America. View never-before-seen old station photos from the collections of three photographers who photo-documented Penn’s life and demolition. Receive a framable, reproduction ticket of the first commuter ride into Pennsylvania Station in 1910. The Penn Station tours will feature photographic presentations of the station by renowned photographers Norman McGrath, Peter Moore, and Aaron Rose, along with the work of railroad aficionados Alexander Hatos, an employee of Pennsylvania Railroad, and Ron Ziel, a railroad historian.

New art at Moynihan Train Hall

Remnants of Penn Station Tour

1. The Emphatics at Penn Station

The Emphatics by Saya Woolfalk
The Emphatics by Saya Woolfalk. Photo courtesy Amtrak.

One of Penn Station‘s newest art installations is Art at Amtrak, a year-round public art initiative that uses visual works to enliven one of the city’s most important transit hubs. Art at Amtrak will also specifically showcase the work of New York and New Jersey-based artists. The first installation is Saya Woolfalk‘s The Emphatics, located in the rotunda of the Amtrak area of Penn Station. The work simulates a natural environment design utilizing the forms and patterns of medicinal plants found in New York and New Jersey, as well as landscape scenes from the Hudson River School. Woolfalk’s art typically combines science fiction and fantasy to re-imagine our current world. The vinyl designs of The Emphatics wrap around the columns and extend onto the walls in Penn Station.

The two inaugural art installations were curated by public art consultant Debra Simon, who partnered with Common Ground to realize the program. Simon hoped to brighten the station’s urban architecture with art that harmonizes with moving elements, including screens showing departure times. Sharon Tepper, Amtrak Director, Planning & Development, tells Untapped New York that the art installations are intended to welcome the whole region Amtrak services from Penn Station, not just New Yorkers.