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Public art to make debut in Allen-Medical Campus Metro Station

A multicolored sculpture of enameled stainless steel that evokes the double helix of DNA soon will be visible from the windows of the newly upgraded Allen-Medical Campus Metro Station.

The sculpture, titled "Gut Flora," will greet passengers as they arrive and depart the station at the base of the University at Buffalo Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.

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Different-colored strands make up six structures, which artist Shasti O'Leary Soudant said are designed to look "vaguely biological."

The installation will span a week and will include bolting together 260 component pieces designed to evoke "the beneficial bacteria colony that you need to be healthy."

"I tend to shoot for things that have a universal appeal that tend to deal with all humans," Soudant said in describing her art. "I'm a huge nerd."

"Our society makes the mistake of trying to sterilize or sanitize everything, and as we're discovering in the last few years, it's a tremendous mistake," Soudant said

The big splash of public art will be installed by late March or early April, said Aaron Ott, public art curator at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, which commissioned her work for the subway stop.

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Soudant was one of three artists selected as a finalist in 2015 by Albright-Knox Art Gallery for public art inside the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority's $4.4 million renovated Metro station. The nonprofit organization coordinating the growth of the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus hopes the Metro will a major player in diffusing the growing parking crunch on campus as the number of people working in the neighborhood grows to 15,000.

The colorful sculpture, which will cost $50,000, will be 15 feet tall and about 20 or 25 feet wide and made of powder-coated steel sections of different colors. It is being fabricated at Rigidized Metals Corp., where Soudant, 50, has been an artist-in-residence. About 180 pieces are finished, with at least 70 to 80 more to go.

"It's a fairly large-scale project," said Soudant, who has lived in Buffalo for 13 years.

The root of Soudant's creative vision is linked to thinking of the City of Buffalo as a human body – including public transportation, streets and anything analogous to the circulatory and digestive systems of a body. "All of these things are the circulatory system, the vital components that drive the body," she said.

When its installation is complete, it will stretch from the floor of the station to its ceiling and will be easily seen through the station windows from Main Street.

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"I think it will be a very nice, wonderful rendition that will help tie the Metro Rail station into the medical campus," said C. Douglas Hartmayer, NFTA public affairs director. "The art will give the station character, and also is meant, based on its features, to tie into the station's proximity to the medical campus."

The installation will be done over a seven-day period requiring the subway station to be closed from 9 p.m. until 5 a.m., Hartmayer said.

"There is very low ridership at that period of time," Hartmayer said.

The train will continue to run its entire route, but will not stop at Allen-Medical Campus during those restricted night hours for about a week.

When the sculpture is hung, Soudant said she will be able to make adjustments as the pieces "work like Legos."

Soudant previously worked on the "Weeping Wall" on the third floor of the atrium at 500 Seneca St.

The NFTA also plans this spring to install a glass partition between its handrails and the steps inside the station.

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