Date: 2008

Indian School Light Rail Station, Phoenix, AZ

Commissioning Agency:
Valley Metro Rail

Project Manager:
MB Finnerty

Terazzo, baked enamel, stainless steel arrows, powder-coated steel frames, and glass with image interlayers.

KVO Industries
Advance Terrazzo
Magnum Industries
Paragon Glass

2009 Public Art Network Year in Review

How do you talk about a complex and troubled history of a place at a train station? It’s not a museum. It’s not a history book. It’s a place where people stand every day on their way to work or school. But lots of people in Phoenix don’t know why Indian School Road has its name, and the art for the Indian School Light Rail Station is an opportunity to share some history about this city we live in. So I decide to try to talk about the history. But how do I as an white person, talk about a system that impacted Native Americans, and not me or my family? I can listen. I can come with my perspective as someone who wants to learn what I don’t know.

So I talked with lots of people: students and teachers from the Indian School, to people who lived and worked and played around it.I spent almost nearly three years preparing for and gathering these stories. I started by reading and researching all I could about the Indian School, then started asking everyone I knew who might be good to talk to. Personal connections meant that I had people to vouch for me, which helped open doors. The people who shared their stories were trusting me with their history and memories. And I worked with those people to select photographs and edit their text so it was as accurate to their memories as we could make it, together. Fifteen stories, each giving a small glimpse into a history of a place made of millions of memories.


A suite of artworks tell the history of the neighborhood, which includes a historic Phoenix Indian School. Given the complex history of the site, the project included hundreds of hours of research in cooperation with community groups to ensure a broad and balanced telling of the stories that make up the area’s history. The project consists of three parts:

Fifteen sets of "memory markers" based on oral histories about the area are installed on the platform. Mounted on the station's vertical columns, each memory marker consists of between 3 and 5 baked enamel panels. Each 5 in. x 7 in. panel will feature a black-and-white historic photograph of a place near the station, with text and silhouettes printed on top. The text describes a memory of an event that happened at that site, and the silhouettes illustrate that memory in action. A long arrow will connect each series of panels, and point in the direction of the memory's location.

Near the ticket machines at the north and south entrance to the station, two 8 ft. x 10 ft. terrazzo "murals" are installed in the ground. Each mural features a photograph of Central Avenue as it looked in 2004 -- one looking north, the other looking south, before the light rail was installed.

Twelve 22" x 30" glass panels were mounted in a fence that runs along side the entry ramps to the platform. There are two groups with six panels in each: one at the north end of the platform, and one at the south. Since passengers will be seeing them as they walk both to and from the platform, each group is meant to be read left-to-right and right-to-left.