clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

D.C.’s Art in Transit: The best public art in the Metro

Murals, ceramic tile, and mosaics included

View as Map

Already, Washington, D.C.’s Metro system has its own unique beauty. The concrete walls’ curves sweep over commuters with a visual appeal often atypical for Brutalism. Since 1997, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) has focused on beautifying the stations even further through Art in Transit.

This program hopes to improve the ridership experience by providing a location for artworks, including murals, mosaics, and sculptures. Art in Transit was inspired by a one-year exhibit in 1988 that a group of public art advocates put together after approaching the WMATA Board of Directors.

Installing artworks in transit lines isn’t anything new. In St. Louis, Missouri, the Metro Arts in Transit project has installed over 150 artworks throughout the city’s Metro since 1986. In New York, there are a variety of show-stopping tile artworks in their subway system. Even in Paris, the beauty of the city’s subway system is something to take notice of, thanks to Art Nouveau glass canopies, frescoes, and decorative tiles.

For a full list of which Metro stations in Washington, D.C. feature artworks, be sure to check out the WMATA website here. If interested in discovering the city’s most beautiful artworks on the Metro line, be sure to browse through the below map, featuring everything from a 900-foot-long mural at the NoMa-Gallaudet Metro station to a glass and stone mosaic frieze at the New Carrollton Metro station.

Note: The mapped points have been listed geographically, from the most north to the most south.

Read More

Bethesda Station

Copy Link

This mural is one of the newer ones, completed in October 2016. The mural is the work of Washington, D.C.-based artist Juan Pineda, whose works have popped up in the D.C. area since the mid-1990s in areas like Petworth, Howard University, and Adams Morgan. Bethesda Magazine reported that the mural cost $30,000 with the funds coming from the Bethesda Arts & Entertainment District, Bethesda Urban Partnership, and real estate and investment firm Brookfield. 

West Hyattsville

Copy Link

WMATA collaborated with the Hyattsville Community Development Corporation to complete this painted mural, located outside the station in a pedestrian track underpass. Behind the mural were local artists Cory Stowers and Henry Portillo of ART B.L.O.C. The mural finished in August 2017.

Photo courtesy of Cory Stowers

New Carrollton Station

Copy Link

Maryland-based artist Heidi Lippman and architect Ben Van Dusen completed this glass and stone mosaic frieze, titled, “Dawn and Dusk,” in 1999. To find it, Metro riders will have to go to the New Carrollton’s garage stair, elevator towers, and free-standing clock.

Photo courtesy of Heidi Lippman

Georgia Avenue Petworth Station

Copy Link

The rich history of the Georgia Avenue-Petworth community is highlighted by a 130-foot mural and a ceramic tile composition, created by Andrew Reid and Carlos Alves, respectively. Completed in 2002, the entire artwork is titled, “Homage to a Community.”

A post shared by Chris D (@absolutlibra) on

U Street/African-Amer Civil War Memorial/Cardozo

Copy Link

Since 1995, this mural has been on display in the U Street Metro station, between the African American Civil War Memorial entrance and the fare gates. Titled “Community Rhythms,” artist Alfred J. Smith completed the mural in conjunction with a 1992 art exhibition, called, “Memory and Metaphor: The Art of Romare Bearden, 1940-1987.” The National Museum of American Art commissioned the mural.

A post shared by Anne Marie (@am_in_the_pm) on

NoMa-Gallaudet U New York Ave Station

Copy Link

Along the Metropolitan Branch Trail, there is a 900-foot-long mural, painted just this year as part of the POW! WOW! festival. The mural was a collaboration by mostly local artists who included CHELOVE, Mas Paz, Jordann Wine, Julia Chon, Key Han, Martin Swift, Kaplan Bunce, Decoy, HKS181, Jacob Eveland, and Matt Corrado. It was also a collaboration between WMATA and the NoMa Business Improvement District (BID).

To find all of the mural locations that were created during the 2017 POW! WOW! festival, go to the NoMa BID website here.

A post shared by Meryl Winslow (@merylwinslow) on

Gallery Pl-Chinatown Station

Copy Link

Foon Sham, a sculptor and art professor at the University of Maryland, completed this artwork in the Gallery Pl-Chinatown Station in 2000. Titled, “The Glory of the Chinese Descendants,” this artwork is a neon wall sculpture, located at the 7th and H streets NW entrance.

Photo via Elvert Barnes

Rosslyn Station

Copy Link

Meant to reflect the architectural and natural forms found in Rosslyn, David Chung painted this 88-foot-long mural on concrete panels in the Rosslyn Metro station. Some of the scenes found on the mural include a curving tower, Key Bridge, and a flowering dogwood tree.

Photo via Elvert Barnes

Archives-Navy Memorial-Penn Quarter Station

Copy Link

A gift from the Lisbon Subway, this 32-ton, green marble wall sculpture by Jorge Martin was created in order to resemble a wave. It stands 10 feet high and 60 feet long with two engraved poems included: “Prayer of Columbus” by Walt Whitman and “Occident” by Fernando Pessoa.

Photo via David

Anacostia Metrorail Station

Copy Link

The Anacostia River is one of this Southeast neighborhood’s most notable features, and it’s also the main topic of this four-foot-high glass mosaic frieze. This artwork is meant to pay homage to the natural and social histories of the Anacostia River. Martha Jackson-Jarvis’ “River Spirits of the Anacostia” was created in 2004 and spans 400 feet.

Photo via Elvert Barnes

Bethesda Station

This mural is one of the newer ones, completed in October 2016. The mural is the work of Washington, D.C.-based artist Juan Pineda, whose works have popped up in the D.C. area since the mid-1990s in areas like Petworth, Howard University, and Adams Morgan. Bethesda Magazine reported that the mural cost $30,000 with the funds coming from the Bethesda Arts & Entertainment District, Bethesda Urban Partnership, and real estate and investment firm Brookfield. 

West Hyattsville

Photo courtesy of Cory Stowers

WMATA collaborated with the Hyattsville Community Development Corporation to complete this painted mural, located outside the station in a pedestrian track underpass. Behind the mural were local artists Cory Stowers and Henry Portillo of ART B.L.O.C. The mural finished in August 2017.

Photo courtesy of Cory Stowers

New Carrollton Station

Photo courtesy of Heidi Lippman

Maryland-based artist Heidi Lippman and architect Ben Van Dusen completed this glass and stone mosaic frieze, titled, “Dawn and Dusk,” in 1999. To find it, Metro riders will have to go to the New Carrollton’s garage stair, elevator towers, and free-standing clock.

Photo courtesy of Heidi Lippman

Georgia Avenue Petworth Station

The rich history of the Georgia Avenue-Petworth community is highlighted by a 130-foot mural and a ceramic tile composition, created by Andrew Reid and Carlos Alves, respectively. Completed in 2002, the entire artwork is titled, “Homage to a Community.”

A post shared by Chris D (@absolutlibra) on

U Street/African-Amer Civil War Memorial/Cardozo

Since 1995, this mural has been on display in the U Street Metro station, between the African American Civil War Memorial entrance and the fare gates. Titled “Community Rhythms,” artist Alfred J. Smith completed the mural in conjunction with a 1992 art exhibition, called, “Memory and Metaphor: The Art of Romare Bearden, 1940-1987.” The National Museum of American Art commissioned the mural.

A post shared by Anne Marie (@am_in_the_pm) on

NoMa-Gallaudet U New York Ave Station

Along the Metropolitan Branch Trail, there is a 900-foot-long mural, painted just this year as part of the POW! WOW! festival. The mural was a collaboration by mostly local artists who included CHELOVE, Mas Paz, Jordann Wine, Julia Chon, Key Han, Martin Swift, Kaplan Bunce, Decoy, HKS181, Jacob Eveland, and Matt Corrado. It was also a collaboration between WMATA and the NoMa Business Improvement District (BID).

To find all of the mural locations that were created during the 2017 POW! WOW! festival, go to the NoMa BID website here.

A post shared by Meryl Winslow (@merylwinslow) on

Gallery Pl-Chinatown Station

Photo via Elvert Barnes

Foon Sham, a sculptor and art professor at the University of Maryland, completed this artwork in the Gallery Pl-Chinatown Station in 2000. Titled, “The Glory of the Chinese Descendants,” this artwork is a neon wall sculpture, located at the 7th and H streets NW entrance.

Photo via Elvert Barnes

Rosslyn Station

Photo via Elvert Barnes

Meant to reflect the architectural and natural forms found in Rosslyn, David Chung painted this 88-foot-long mural on concrete panels in the Rosslyn Metro station. Some of the scenes found on the mural include a curving tower, Key Bridge, and a flowering dogwood tree.

Photo via Elvert Barnes

Archives-Navy Memorial-Penn Quarter Station

Photo via David

A gift from the Lisbon Subway, this 32-ton, green marble wall sculpture by Jorge Martin was created in order to resemble a wave. It stands 10 feet high and 60 feet long with two engraved poems included: “Prayer of Columbus” by Walt Whitman and “Occident” by Fernando Pessoa.

Photo via David

Anacostia Metrorail Station

Photo via Elvert Barnes

The Anacostia River is one of this Southeast neighborhood’s most notable features, and it’s also the main topic of this four-foot-high glass mosaic frieze. This artwork is meant to pay homage to the natural and social histories of the Anacostia River. Martha Jackson-Jarvis’ “River Spirits of the Anacostia” was created in 2004 and spans 400 feet.

Photo via Elvert Barnes