More Culture:

September 15, 2023

SEPTA art project to use augmented reality to share stories about commuter daydreams

Regional Rail, Broad Street Line and some trolley riders can watch short films by scanning QR codes with their smartphones beginning in October

Arts & Culture SEPTA
SEPTA Transit Art Provided Image/Anula Shetty

'Philly Daydreams: Stories in Transit' is an art project that allows SEPTA riders to view short films on commuter daydreams by scanning QR codes. Pictured above is Shaily Dadiala, a dancer who shared her story as part of the project.

Certain SEPTA vehicles and stations will be part of an art installation this fall that uses augmented reality to tell stories about the daydreams of public transit riders. 

"Philly Daydreams: Stories in Transit," designed by artist and filmmaker Anula Shetty, allows riders to scan QR codes with their smartphones to view short films that share the stories of various SEPTA employees and commuters. The QR codes will be displayed on Regional Rail trains, the Broad Street Line and the Route 15 trolleys from Oct. 2 through November.

The installation explores public transit as a service that connects people through shared experiences. Shetty has been working with Mural Arts Philadelphia, the Forman Arts Initiative and SEPTA on the project since January, researching the history of the transit system and filming SEPTA workers and riders, who shared their daydreams and explained how taking public transit every day benefits them. 

Kiosks that include short stories from the project's participants and allows submissions from the general public will be installed at the Philadelphia International Airport, Jefferson Station, Suburban Station, SEPTA headquarters and the Parkway Central Library. The installation is positioned to reach more than 500,000 daily commuters and riders.

"The goal is to create connections between people who cross paths during their daily commute," Shetty said. "Through 'Philly Daydreams,' I want to provide SEPTA riders a moment to hear uplifting stories of human connection and a moment to be moved by a poem or performance, to imagine, and to daydream as I got to during the wonderful process of exploring SEPTA and meeting my inspiring city-mates." 

To celebrate the installation's opening, Shetty's films will be projected in City Hall Station's oculus, which has been closed since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, beginning Oct. 5. The oculus serves as the central compass of the installation, housing all of the stories that can be found at other stations. 

The oculus display at City Hall Station will be open Oct. 6-8 and Oct. 12-15. On Thursdays and Fridays, it will be open from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. On Saturday and Sundays, it will be visible from 1-4 p.m. It is free to view.

"SEPTA is a crucial part of both the history and future of Philadelphia," said Jennifer Rice, co-founder of the Forman Arts Initiative. "We are proud to support art that contributes to the spirit of our city and celebrates such an essential organization in keeping Philadelphians connected." 

In 2018, Mural Arts created its first mural that utilized augmented reality. "Dreams, Diaspora, and Destiny" can be found at 53rd Street and Lansdowne Avenue. It was designed by students at the Haverford School and Mastery Shoemaker Charter School.