When the Expo Line opens on May 20, regular riders will probably make use of a Transit Access Pass to board the train, but Santa Monicans will be able to move beyond the basic blue plastic thanks to a set of commemorative cards featuring local art.

The TAP is a credit card-sized pass that can be pre-loaded with cash or a variety of specialized passes for use on 24 Los Angeles area transit agencies. To celebrate the launch of Expo, local authorities have commissioned three limited-edition cards feature artwork from Santa Monicans.

Cindy Bendat is a cultural, documentary and fine art photographer with 25 years of residency in Santa Monica. Her image is an aerial shot of the local beach taken from a small Cessna plane during a photo shoot of the coast.

Thomas Eatherton is a painter and digital artist who has lived in the city since 1953. His image is a pattern of brightly colored blocks.

Mimi Haddon is a photographic artist inspired by the clash of nostalgic influences on modern realities. Her image features a woman floating over the beach with the pier in the background.

Bendat said she has many images of Santa Monica after working in the city for so long and her winning image was taken in 2008 as part of a flyover of the local coast during which she also took pictures of local landmarks and streets.

“It’s quite different taking an image out of a plane,” she said.

She said she has taken images from the window of a commercial plane and from other unique vantage points like the Ferris wheel and roller coaster on the pier but shooting from a small plane was harder.

“There was an open window where I just turned my body a little, there were three of us in the plane, to just shoot out of the window, there was no stabilization for the camera,” she said.

She said she looked forward to her image becoming part of the transit experience and said public art is an important part of the community.

“The fact that thousands of people can see public art in often a permanent way is great,” she said. “Government entities should do as much as possible to support art and artists and that includes making art in the schools as well as art education as well as public art.”

Eatherton has a history with art for Metro. He had a piece selected to illustrate a station on the Blue Line and said art needs an audience.

“Art doesn’t exist in a vacuum,” he said. “You don’t do it just for yourself. It’s on one level a form of communication and you have to — the artwork has to — bridge a gap between the artist and the viewer and however that happens, it’s good for both, its good for the artist and anyone that experiences the art.”

Eatherton said his process incorporates his history in several mediums including painting and light installations. For this work, he utilized his digital skills to create an image that he said has an internal integrity independent of its final use.

“I thought it had its own quality as an independent piece,” he said.

He said his work reflective of the positive emotions he feels when thinking about the pier, Third Street Promenade, the Pacific Ocean and Palisades Park.

“This piece is very colorful and very active and it seemed like a cheerful possibility for them the commission,” he said.

Haddon said she was drawn to the idea that the art would be applied to a utilitarian object that so many people will have access to it. She chose an image that she said is interesting, fresh and with a twist.

“This is an image that I originally created as something that would represent the way in which I view my city,” she said. “I wanted to embrace the multi-layered qualities of the city. It offers the beach, entertainment, joy, color and sunshine.  It is a city that is stylish but also authentic. Santa Monica also has a mysticism that is linked to it’s natural beauty. The way the Santa Monica Mountains meet the sea so gracefully, is unusual and lovely. So the female is a sort of guardian of this natural wealth and a reminder to protect what has been given to us.”

She said she often responds to municipal requests and is glad to have had her work chosen.

“I am honored to have my artwork featured on the commemorative TAP card,” she said. “The image is very meaningful to me and I am proud that it will be held by the many riders of the new addition to the Expo Line.”

According to Suja Lowenthal, engagement manager for the Big Blue Bus planning and community division, the cards are expected to arrive in town in late April and will be available at the BBB transit store or at a mobility kiosk that will be established about two weeks before Expo’s opening.


Matthew Hall

Matthew Hall has a Masters Degree in International Journalism from City University in London and has been Editor-in-Chief of SMDP since 2014. Prior to working at SMDP he managed a chain of weekly papers...