Harlem Subway Stations Tell Story of Neighborhood’s History and Culture

Harlem, NEW YORK—If you take the 2/3 train to Harlem, mosaic murals that tell the story of the neighborhood’s history greet you when you step onto the platform. Three stations along the Lenox Avenue corridor (also known as Malcolm X Boulevard) feature installations that depict the culture of the Harlem Renaissance and legends of uptown.

Two glass mosaic works by Vincent Smith (1929-2003) at the 116th Street subway station debuted in 1999. “Minton’s Playhouse,” the mural on the uptown platform shows a captivating scene full of jazz icons and, on the downtown side, “Movers and Shakers” depicts Harlem visionaries including Zora Neale Hurston, W.E.B. Du Bois, Langston Hughes and Marcus Garvey. Institutions that thrive today—the Apollo Theater and the Studio Museum—are also highlighted.

The 125th and 135th Street stations also feature mosaic installations (by Faith Ringgold and Willie Birch, respectively) honoring Harlem’s pioneers, but Smith’s murals at 116th Street are bursting with vibrant colors and an aesthetic vibe that stands out among the set. All of the works are a part of the MTA’s Arts for Transit program.

All photos by Arts Observer

Above, “Mintons’s Playhouse,” features jazz legends; Top, at left, W.E.B. Du Bois, at right, Malcolm X.

From left, Duke Ellington, Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, Zora Neale Hurston and Alvin Ailey.

Far right, Thurgood Marshall.

Marcus Garvey

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