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Going for the Gold: California Stories on the Los Angeles Metro Gold Line: Communities, Public Art, and Placemaking.: 12. Tony Gleaton, Untitled, Sierra Madre Station

The project was funded in 2008-2009 by the California Council for the Humanities through its California Stories: California Story Fund



Tony Gleaton

In May 1993, the staff of Art in Rapid Transit (A-R-T), the public art program of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), initiated the artist selection process for the Sierra Madre Villa Station by holding a community meeting to describe the public art program and invited people to join the Community Advisory Committee (CAC) being established for their area.[1]  The CAC that was established for the Sierra Madre Villa Station was also responsible for the Lake Street and Allen Avenue stations.  During the summer of 1993, the CAC prepared a Community Profile of the areas surrounding each of the three stations[2] and then elected two members of the five member panel that selected the artists for the stations.  At their first meeting, which was held on October 5 1993, the artist selection panel reviewed slides of over 600 artists in the A-R-T artist slide registry and created a short list of 57 artists.[3]  On October 12, the panel reviewed the 57 artists more thoroughly and narrowed down the list to seven finalists for the three stations.[4]  After interviewing the finalists on November 2, the panel selected Tony Gleaton for the Sierra Madre Village Station.[5]

After his selection, Gleaton did some preliminary work for his installation before the design of the station stopped due to a disagreement between the MTA and people in the community over the location of the station’s entrance.[6]  Though the matter was ultimately resolved, Gleaton ceased doing further work because construction of the entire light rail line was suspended in 1995 due to cost over-runs.  When construction resumed in 2000 it was under the authority of the newly established Pasadena Blue Line Authority (PBLA). 

As part of the PBLA goal of constructing the light rail on budget, the artists who were previously selected under the MTA’s public art policy were offered new contracts and in January 2001, Gleaton received a $10,000 design contract.[7]  On August 8, 2001, the Pasadena Arts Commission reviewed his preliminary design and accepted it without suggesting any changes.[8]  On September 20, 2001, the City of Pasadena Light Rail Station Design Review Committee approved Gleaton’s proposal[9] and in July 2002, the Pasadena Art Commission approved the final design.[10]  After the design was accepted by the various public agencies, the installation was fabricated by Carlson & Co[11] and in 2003, it was installed.

Gleaton’s untitled installation consists of four portraits each imprinted on a double-sided 48” x 96” x 1.5” porcelain enameled panel hung 16 feet above the stairway.[12]  In describing these images, Gleaton said they “are ones in which people look directly and openly into the camera. One of the important aspects of these portraits is the attempt to create a narrative voice by visual means in my depictions of the working class. And in doing so creating an ‘alternative iconography’ of what beauty and family and love and goodness, might stand for.”[13]  The blue hue of the panels complements the “reflex blue” color, which he selected for the ceiling of the bridge connecting the garage to the station to create an open feel for the space. 

Tony Gleaton (1948 - ) received his MFA from Milton Avery School of Art, Bard College.  He taught at the School of Art at the University of Michigan/Ann Arbor and was a Visiting Professor in the School of Mass Communications, Texas Tech University.  His series of portraits, Africa’s Legacy in Mexico, toured the United States through the Smithsonian Institutions Traveling Exhibition Service, and in Cuba and Mexico by the Mexican National Council of Art.  Between 1992 through 1996, Gleaton expanded the series to complete: “Tengo Casi 500 Años: Africa’s Legacy in Mexico, Central & South America.”  Gleaton has received a $25,000 award from the S. Durfee Foundation for his projects and a commission from the Samoan Archives of the Oceanside Public Library to photograph American Samoa. 

[1] Notice Metro Public Meeting Pasadena Light Rail Transit Project, with attached list of meetings including May 11, 1993 for Sierra Madre Villa.

[2] Lake Avenue, Allen Avenue and Sierra Madre Villa stations, Community Profile, Community Advisory committee, Art for Rail Transit, Pasadena Light Rail Transit Project, no date; Community Profile for Sierra Madre Villa Station, Pasadena Light Rail, August 25, 1993.

[3] Letter from Alan Nakagawa to John Outterbridge, October 6, 1993, Lake/Allen/Sierra Madre Villa A-R-T Program Short List, no date.

[4] Lake Allen Sierra Madre Villa Stations Finalists, no date; Pasadena Light Rail Transit Project Lake/Allen/Sierra Madre Villa Artist Selection Interviews November 2, 1993.

[5] Letter from Alan Nakagawa to Tony Gleaton, November 2, 1993.

[6] Minutes of the City of Pasadena Light Rail Station Review Committee, Light Rail Station Review Committee, May 9, 1996.

[7] Service Contract between Kiewit/Washington and Tony Gleaton, January 5, 2001; Sierra Madre Villa Station, Tony Gleaton, August 2001.

[8] Draft Minutes Special Meeting Arts Commission, August 8, 2001; letter from Lesley Elwood to Rochelle Branch, September 5, 2001.

[9] Draft Minutes of City of Pasadena Light Rail Station Design Review Committee, September 20, 2001.

[10] Staff Report from Richard Bruckner to Arts Commission re: MTA Gold Line Final Art Plans: Sierra Madre Villa, July 10, 2002.

[11] Proposal from Carlson & Co., to Tony Gleaton re: Sierra Madre Villa Station Art Project, October 8, 2001.

[12] Project Art, Los Angeles to Pasadena Construction Authority, Sierra Madre Villa Station, Artist Tony Gleaton, September 3, 2002.

[13] Email from Tony Gleaton to Lesley Elwood, re: SMV Art Work, October 15, 2002.