The MTA prints 170 million plastic MetroCards every year, most of which wind up littering our streets and subway system. New York artist Thomas McKean collects the discarded cards to create incredible miniature sculptures and intricate mosaics -- and cleans up waste at the same time!
“Usually we swipe [MetroCards] in a hurry as we pass through the turnstile, hoping we haven’t missed the subway. Or dip them as we enter a bus, hoping there’s still enough money on them to pay for the ride,” McKean told Subway Art Blog. “But we barely notice them; they’re as omnipresent and invisible as pigeons. I stopped to look at them one day and haven’t looked back yet.”
New Yorkers were outraged last year when the city raised bus and subway fares. The hike included a $1 surcharge for each new MetroCard, hoping to encourage riders to refill their cards, thus reducing litter and cutting costs. The MTA spends $13 million to print cards each year, and that figure does not include the cost of cleaning up the cards discarded in the system.
To see his work in person, stop by the Washington Square East Galleries where a few of his pieces will be displayed in the 32nd Annual Small Works Show, from January 31 to March 13.
Via Subway Art Blog
Images © Thomas McKean