A lot can be learned about the city of Santiago by spending time underneath it, thanks to the work of Corporación Cultural MetroArte which has transformed Santiago's metro system into a cultural and education experience, in addition to a method of transportation.
"Chile Hoy" by Guillermo Muñoz Vera
Founded in 2000, MetroArte has partnered with local and international artists and companies to install over 30 large art pieces in metro stations around the city. These works of art provide a welcome respite from the dreary concrete and tile that characterize most metro stations. If you look up while waiting for a train in Baquedano you can marvel at Osvaldo Peña's wooden sculpture of a man crossing a bridge that hangs above the tracks.
"El Puente" by Osvaldo Peña
In La Moneda the 14 large murals that depict Chile’s magnificent and diverse landscape painted by Guillermo Muñoz Vera make it easy to forget you stepped off the train into a metro station and not one of Santiago's fine art museums.
In addition to their aesthetic value, the art installations provide cultural and education information about Chile. Many of the artists featured are Chilean natives whose works represent topics that are important to the country's history.
Manuel Espinosa Salas depicts the Battle of La Concepción, a key victory for Chile in the Pacific War, through floor to ceiling portraits of military heroes who fought in the battle in the Los Héroes station. Massive murals by Mario Toral that adorn the walls of the Universidad de Chile station tell the story of Chile’s history from the first inhabitants, through the Spanish conquest, all the way up to modern life. And in the Plaza de Armas station a 90 square meter sculpture made entirely out of copper by artist Elise Aguirre symbolizes the importance of copper mining in Chile, the world's largest producer and exporter of the mineral.
"Memoria Visual de una Nación" by Mario Toral
Other works of art on display represent the people who make up Chilean society. Artist Jorge Artus worked with children at an art workshop in Teletón, a free rehabilitation hospital for children with disabilities, to create colorful murals that are displayed in the Ecuador metro station. Five sets of eyes look down upon you as you walk through Baquedano station and past Guillermo Lorca's portraits that celebrate the different people who make up Chilean society.
"Rostros del Bicentenario" by Guillermo Lorca (Photo courtesy MetroArte)
Between balancing life's many obligations, not everyone has the time or desire to spend hours on end at one of Chile’s many art and cultural museums everyday but it only takes a few seconds to glance up as your descending the stairs to the platform or waiting for a train. MetroArte may not be designed for an art critic to sit and analyze a work of art but it does make art more accessible for the average metro rider to glance up and admire the beauty and culture of Santiago as they travel underneath it.