Inside the Beltway

Sidewalk Style


Tim Doud's installation at Union Station
Photo courtesy of Amtrak

When multidisciplinary visual artist Tim Doud won the commission for the inaugural Art at Amtrak installation at Washington Union Station, he didn’t have to go far for inspiration.
As Doud, director of AU’s MFA studio art program, strolled around DC’s stately transit hub on a bustling Saturday afternoon, a clothier on the concourse selling Ankara fabrics—vibrant African prints—caught his eye. When he spotted travelers wearing the same bold print at the nearby departure gates, Doud began to piece together the idea for a patchwork-inspired installation celebrating Washingtonians and their threads. 
“Clothing always catches my attention. It can be read as a personal signature as well as a cultural statement,” Doud says. “Whether people are wearing logo T-shirts or business suits, their clothing reflects some aspect of their identities.”
A Great Public Walk, which spans the wall along the waiting area between gates and A and L, opened on September 13 and runs through winter 2024 at Amtrak’s second-busiest station. The installation is part of the railroad’s new public art program, which kicked off in June 2022 on the other end of the busy Northeast Regional route, at the gleaming Moynihan Train Hall in Manhattan. 
Using as a template part of French engineer Pierre L’Enfant’s original plan for another of the city’s great public walks—the National Mall—Doud created a collage of textiles and fabrics that evokes both the physical space and the people who inhabit it. “It represents the center of government, a place that attracts people from all over the country and the world, and that, in L’Enfant’s words, is ‘open to all,’” he says.
Doud drew from a closet full of fabrics: denim, florals, gingham, houndstooth. The Korean, Mexican, Ethiopian, and Nigerian textiles reflect DC’s international flavor, while the hint of camouflage is a nod to the city’s Pentagon-sized military presence. Travelers who look closely will spot snippets of the Washington Nationals and Capitals’ logos, along with the mark of the man who’s faster than a speeding bullet (train). 
“Every time I’ve come to Union Station, I’ve seen a guy wearing a Superman shirt,” Doud says with a smile. 
“I designed the installation to be something that invites curiosity and welcomes interactions,” he continues. “It’s a puzzle in which viewers participate.”