Ray Ballard installs tiles at one of the streetcar stops on North Fourth Avenue. The artist says her cactus motif was inspired by the colorful and playful nature of the avenue. Eight of the streetcar line’s 17 stops will get original artwork.

Fourth Avenue got a little more colorful this week.

A crew from Progressive Hardscapes installed the first piece of the $765,000 streetcar art project between Sixth and Seventh Streets along Fourth Avenue.

The multi-colored "lithomosaics," a type of glass tiles, are the creation of Phoenix artist Mary Lucking.

However, the art piece will be virtually invisible to anyone not actually using the streetcar stop. The tiles are a part of the floor, as sort of a surrogate sidewalk.

Lucking said the psychedelic cactus-inspired motif of her piece matched the eclectic ambience of the neighborhood.

"We wanted to make something that felt like Fourth Avenue," Lucking said. "Something fun and colorful and wacky and desert-y."

The 8-foot by 45-foot art project runs the entire length of the station and it took Lucking about 200 hours to lay all of the glass tiles.

A special lithocrete admixture was used to preserve the tiles. The is first time it has been used in Arizona, said Mike Riggs, manager at Progressive Hardscapes.

Created five years ago in Los Angeles, Riggs said the admixture prevents the glass from breaking down and "popping out" after a couple years.

"This gives us a lot more durable product," Riggs said.

The artwork was laid directly into the ground so it wouldn't consume too much space during street fairs and other Fourth Avenue events.

In addition to the mosaic tiles, Bisbee-artist Pete Goldlust will supply metal panels which will be installed on the stops seats, and along the shade structure, Lucking said.

The streetcar line has 17 stops in total which the city has divided into two categories. Eight stops will be adorned with "unique" artwork from eight different artists. The remaining nine will contain electronic poetry boards that will scroll continuous verse similar to a stock ticker.

Each "unique" art project costs $73,750

Local artists Simon Donovan and Ben Olmstead received $124,375 a piece for their work as lead artists. In addition to their "unique" stop art, they are responsible for all poetry readers and artwork at the streetcar maintenance facility.

The streetcar art project stems from the city's policy of spending 1 percent of construction costs for public art.

Contact reporter Darren DaRonco at 573-4243 or ddaronco@azstarnet.com