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Artists are placed "in residence" in City departments to explore how the work of artists can enhance, illuminate and educate the public about the work of the departments and as a result, build a bridge between the City and the people served.
In some cases, artists were selected to fulfill very specific assignments, such as with the Photographer-in-Residence from 1996 to 1998, when Peter de Lory created a series of photographic artworks that captured the work of SPU as an integrated utility, depicting the employees in the performance of their duties, the stewardship of water as a resource and the facilities managed by SPU.
In other cases, artists were asked to develop arts plans that mapped out ways that art could integrate with the department’s mission.
Buster Simpson and Lorna Jordan have completed residencies that focused on the work, environment and infrastructure of Seattle Public Utilities and outlined their ideas in art master plans. Jordan’s plan “Watershed Illuminations,” described how art integrated into utility construction projects could reveal and explain the watershed to its users. Simpson’s plan, “Poetic Utility,” focused on issues of drainage and wastewater and reuse of resources and sustainability, proposing methods that used artists to illustrate the system by raising public awareness. Several of the art projects pursued by Seattle Public Utilities have developed out of recommendations in these art plans.