To begin with, it is important to understand the difference between the concepts of “art” and “design.” FTA expects all transit projects to be designed and built by professional architects, engineers, planners, interior and landscape design professionals, and those in other professional trades. The building and surrounding landscape designs should incorporate aesthetic considerations, including but not limited to decisions regarding the use of light, shape, color, materials, the use of space, and the historic setting to achieve a functional and welcoming public transit facility. In fact, the Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary defines “design” in this context as “the arrangement of elements or details in a product[…]” and as “the creative art of executing aesthetic or functional designs.”
Based on this definition, FTA does not interpret the law to exclude or prohibit the functional and aesthetic design of transit stations or related facilities, including designs intended to minimize adverse visual effects on the surrounding community as identified in the environmental review process. For this reason, FTA will not require grantees to assess the often indeterminate incremental costs associated with functional design elements, including, but not limited to, the use of different types or colors of paint or tile, wayfinding elements intended to direct passengers or staff, or different or alternate construction materials in the design of a transit facility.
In contrast to design, FTA interprets the term “art” in this context as primarily aesthetic objects that do not have a meaningfully functional structural or transit-related purpose. “Art,” within the meaning of the statute, would include, for example, most decorative murals, sculptures, statues, musical installations, or similar objects or elements included for primarily aesthetic purposes. Accordingly, in the case of primarily aesthetic elements or objects, FTA considers any costs directly associated with or attributable to creating, producing, or installing such elements or objects to be ineligible for FTA grant funding.