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City of Seattle
Ed Murray, Mayor

SUBJECT: Office of Arts & Culture receives top honors for public art from Americans for the Arts

6/13/2013  9:00:00 AM

Office of Arts & Culture receives top honors for public art from Americans for the Arts
Two 2012 public art projects were selected for national recognition

SEATTLE — The Seattle Office of Arts & Culture is proud to announce that two of their projects have been named in Americans for the Arts' 2013 Year in Review, the only national program recognizing projects of excellence in public art. Year in Review selects and presents up to 50 outstanding public art projects completed in the previous year from more than 350 entries from across the country and Canada. The honorees are SODO by merge conceptual design, consisting of a series of stencil and barcode designs painted onto 250 concrete columns that hold up the existing and new portions of the Spokane Street Viaduct; and Art Interruptions, a new temporary art program that presented a suite of short-term projects by a dozen artists (see below) on city-owned street and park infrastructure and in the right-of-way. The Art Interruptions series will return with a new suite of artists in August 2013. In addition to SODO and Art Interruptions, a number of artists currently working on commissions for the city, or who have works in Seattle's collection were also recognized: Buster Simpson, Ned Kahn, Patrick Marrold, Susan Robb, Linda Beaumont and Jenny Heishman.

"Public art makes a profound impact on our community and enhances the lives of Seattle residents and visitors. I'm proud that Seattle has long been known for our public art program and that it is so deeply ingrained in our city," said Mayor Mike McGinn. "We are especially pleased to receive this honor as we are celebrating our 40th anniversary of the public art program," added director Randy Engstrom. "Year in Review recognition underscores our continuing contributions to the field." Selection criteria included artistic excellence in skill and form, innovative quality of the concept, and appropriateness to site context. Year in Review honorees are selected by a panel. The 2013 review jurors were Justine Topfer, curator, Out of the Box Projects, San Francisco, Calif.; John Carson, artist and head of the School of Art, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, Penn.; and Norie Sato, artist, Seattle, Wash. (Sato recused herself from Seattle considerations).

SODO is a vast, visual narrative that catalogues more than 200 years of SoDo's (South of Downtown) history from tidal flats to the industrial area to a center of warehousing, packaging and distribution of goods. Located under the Spokane Street Viaduct between Sixth Avenue South and East Marginal Way South, nine different color and image schemes create separate zones that recollect the natural and cultural history of the area, the industries that flourished there, and wildlife that inhabited the site. In total, 589 column faces were painted stretching 1/2 mile through the corridor. The unifying visual element across the site is a unique barcode for each color field, which includes distinct icons representing each story or theme. Funding for this project came from Seattle Department of Transportation 1% for Art funds.

Art Interruptions
Art Interruptions is a new program for the Seattle Office of Arts & Culture, created in 2012 in conjunction with the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) and Seattle Parks and Recreation. The program, intended to be offered annually, creates a suite of temporary projects by a number of different artists. Artists for 2012 were A.K. Mimi Allin, Brian Benfer, Peter Bjordahl, Barbara DePirro, Mary Iverson, Jennifer and Allan Kempson, Ingrid Lahti, Joanna Lepore, Nickolus Meisel, Chris Papa, Carolina Silva and Ellen Sollod. This group created small-scale, temporary artworks that appeared to be "non-sanctioned" art placed in the right-of-way. Each artist was tasked with creating a work that offered the public a brief interruption in their day, eliciting a moment of surprise, beauty or humor. Artwork was displayed for as long as it remained at the site (from several days to a several months, depending on the project and location).

Artwork activated the prominent commercial corridor of the residential neighborhood Greenwood as part of the SDOT program "Summer Streets." Artwork also surprised passers-by along the Central Waterfront in downtown Seattle, an area currently undergoing redevelopment. This initial project was a great success in both areas and has become a model for future temporary projects. This project was funded through Seattle Department of Transportation 1% for Art funds.

The Office of Arts & Culture was most recently honored with Year in Review recognition in 2009 for Jenny Heishman's Water Mover, a rain-activated metal sculpture at Fremont's A.B. Ernst Park, and Kumi Yamashita's Pathway, a multi-media installation in a Seattle City Light conference room.

About Seattle's Public Art Program
Seattle was one of the first cities in the United States to adopt a percent-for-art ordinance in 1973. For 40 years, our public art program has integrated artworks and the ideas of artists into a variety of public settings, advancing Seattle's reputation as a cultural center for innovation and creativity. Seattle's collection includes nearly 400 permanently sited and integrated works and nearly 3,000 portable works. Artworks are commissioned through a public process, and artists are selected through panels comprised of professional visual artists along with community and city representatives. The percent-for-art ordinance specifies that one percent of eligible city capital improvement project funds be set aside for the commission, purchase and installation of artworks in a variety of settings. By providing opportunities for individuals to encounter art in parks, libraries and community centers and on roadways, bridges and other public venues, we simultaneously enrich citizens' daily lives and give voice to artists.

Office of Arts & Culture | Making art work.
We envision a city driven by creativity that provides the opportunity for everyone to engage in diverse arts and cultural experiences. We are supported by the 16-member Seattle Arts Commission, citizen volunteers appointed by the mayor and City Council.

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