I’ve been carrying around my Barbara Kruger designed MetroCard for awhile now, and the sight of it still thrills me.

Every time I swipe my way through a turnstile I’m reminded of how much I believe in public art as well as how extraordinary it felt to actually score one of these 50,000 limited-edition cards. I had a plan. It worked. But of course, it was all luck.

Here were my seven steps:

  1. First, I waited. The cards dropped on a Wednesday at four select subway stations. I learned via The New York Times that they were to be randomly distributed and only sold via vending machines. I couldn’t imagine that the existing stack of cards would be swapped out, replaced with the art cards; so I held out until Saturday, hoping other commuters would burn through the generics.
  2. I picked the Broadway-Lafayette Street station, because I frequently pass through here on my way to volunteer at Housing Works Bookstore. Perhaps I’d stored up some synchronicity along the line?  
  3. There were a few entrances from which to choose at this B/D/F/M hub, each had a number of vending machines. I went for one with an attendant, thinking that maaaaybe the cards would be sent out for distribution, addressed to station managers, and they’d stock the machines closest to their booths. I chose the station on the NE corner under the adidas store (because–well–I adore this brand).
  4. Eyeing the line of MetroCard vending machines, all chrome and lit up with “See Something, Say Something” alerts, I felt the same as I did the couple of times in my life that I’ve hmmm-ed over a slot machine to play. Blind. So I gave myself a $20 maximum to spend, in case the art collector in me took over.
  5. The first machine produced a Diesel-branded card. And for a split second, I loathed absolutely everything about SoHo and Capitalism and that I’d ever opened myself up to such a whimsical yet real want in this swirly, grinding whirlwind of a city with deeply rank odds.
  6. I stepped back from the blinking machines. They each held thousands upon thousands of cards. I had four more chances. Three, if I was being strict with staying under my budget. My partner, Melinda, and I watched a few folks buy MetroCards; both of us squinting for flashes of Kruger’s signature red, her iconic white Futura typeface. “I saw red,” Melinda said with conviction, pointing at the machine closest to the turnstiles.
  7. Buzzing like a third rail with hope, I stepped up, slid in my credit card, purchased a minimum stored value card for the amount of $5.25 or something, and held my breath as I flipped over the standard yellow-and-blue printed top to see what might materialize beneath. And with the rush of the right train pulling into the station, I saw it was a Barbara Kruger card.

The Lucky Barbara Kruger MTA Vending Machine

I tried for another, for a friend, a mega Kruger fan, and scored a second card. For the next few days, I directed everyone who cared to the lucky MTA vending machine. They all pulled art cards on the first try.

Many have asked if I’ve framed mine. No way.

Public art is meant to be public–seen by as many people as possible–not locked away, pressed beneath glass, stuck to my private wall.

I only have until 1/31/2019, when the card expires, to carry the message, asking:

Whose hopes? Whose fears? Whose values? Whose justice? 

[Do you seek? Support? Secure? Uphold?]