Art at Amtrak program kicks off at Penn Station

20220621-Saya Woolfalk Art-0C6A5116
Art by Saya Woolfalk
Photo: Marc Glucksman

Art at Amtrak launched its year-round public art initiative in June 2022. 

With the goal of bringing visitors of New York Penn Station a compelling visual experience, Amtrak has given a stage to New York and New Jersey artists. With the previous success of the public art program showcased at Moynihan Train Hall, the now installed temporary pieces for Art at Amtrak provide even more life to greet travelers in one of New York City’s biggest transportation centers.

“Art at Amtrak continues our commitment to ensuring all rail travelers have a modern, inspiring, safe and accessible experience and a proper entrance to the cultural capital of the world,” said Sharon Tepper, Amtrak Director, Planning and Development for New York Penn Station. “This new initiative turns functional space into a site for contemporary art that engages local and regional communities and visitors from around the world.”

Two artists were commissioned to create installations for the project. Dahlia Elsayed, artist and writer with a focus on extracting the beauty of experiencing where you are.

Elsayed calls her work “myth pictures for placelessness.” She uses allegorical landscapes to convey her past feelings of displacement and her current feelings of belonging. Her art, “Parallel Incantations,” now covers Penn Station with an illusion of an infinite, vast space. 

Dahlia ElsayedPhoto: Marc Glucksman

“For this project, I wanted to make a visual poem for a waiting area—the space between coming and going, and to create a place within a physical transportation hub for viewers to be transported sensorially, ” Elsayed said.

Alongside Elsayed is Japanese-born Saya Woolfalk, who uses elements of fantasy and science fiction to re-imagine the scenery around her. Currently, Woolfalk’s work in Penn Station consists of the human figure merging with nature.

Before her artwork was installed Woolfalk stated her installation “[…] will be a fantastical immersive experience people will encounter as they go about their daily routines. It is my hope to offer everyone a moment of respite, beauty, and nature in the middle of the built urban environment.” 

Saya WoolfalkPhoto: Marc Glucksman

The one overseeing and curating the project is Debra Simon Art Consulting, with producer Common Ground Arts. Simon previously worked as Director of Public Art at the Times Square Alliance, supervising the Midnight Moment series. After working in the industry and seeing the impact art can have on people, Simon was confident in her abilities to curate this project. 

“Art can transform a mundane journey into an extraordinary experience that is both visually engaging and thought-provoking,” said Simon. “Art at Amtrak seamlessly integrates striking site-specific works into the existing architecture of New York Penn Station, making it a destination to explore the commissioned art work of regional artists. The program also gives emerging and mid-career artists exposure to a far larger audience than any museum or gallery exhibition can offer.”

You can visit Penn Station now to see the large-scale works of Elsayed and Woolfalk across the upper level of the station. 

Art by Dahlia ElsayedPhoto: Marc Glucksman

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