A Working Plan for Art on the Central Seattle Waterfront was completed in fall 2012, and is being administered by the Seattle Office of Arts & Culture. The plan is rooted in a vision of the Seattle Waterfront’s history as a port and a working waterfront. Its finger piers are traces of earlier port operations, still highly visible on Harbor Island to the south and shipping piers to the north. The port is a sign of Seattle’s role as a connected, open, global city, exporting and importing raw materials, goods, software, ideas, and culture. Artists can bring new working life to the waterfront, and their works and projects can participate in the waterfront’s economic and cultural exchanges. Artists working on permanent projects should be active in public forums and design conversations. And planning for future arts activities and institutions on the waterfront must be part of our work.
Permanent commissions are underway, almost all developed using Seawall bond dollars. These include a commission for Seattle artist Buster Simpson, focused on habitat, and a commission for a sound-based artwork by Richmond, VA, artist Stephen Vitiello. Seattle artist Norie Sato will create an integrated artwork for the new Union Street pedestrian connection to the Waterfront. And, Ann Hamilton will create a major new work set on Pier 62/63.
Internationally recognized artist Ann Hamilton has been selected for a commission on the new public piers as part of Waterfront Seattle. Hamilton, known for large-scale, sensory installations, is the recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship and has also represented the United States at the Venice Biennale. She will join a team of architects, planners and city designers to create the project over the next several years. Hamilton is known for recent installations such as the event of a thread at the Park Avenue Armory in New York, and tower · Oliver Ranch, in Geyserville, California. Seattle audiences will recognize her LEW Wood Floor at the Seattle Central Library, with raised letters spelling out the first sentences from books in the library’s collection in 11 languages. In addition, the Henry Art Gallery hosted an eponymous exhibition of Hamilton’s work in October 2014.
The artist responded to her selection by saying, “Seattle is making the quality of its public spaces a central project in the imagination of the city. And I’m really thrilled to be able to participate and be part of that.”
Norie Sato was chosen to collaborate with the project design team to create an original artwork or series of artworks on the rebuilt east-west Union and/or Seneca streets between First Avenue and Alaskan Way. The East/West Connections project on Union Street connect streets and facilitate pedestrian passage to new public spaces on Seattle’s Central Waterfront. This project has a personal connection for the artist: in 1991, Sato created a temporary artwork on the waterfront that marked the location of her arrival to this country by ship.
Buster Simpson will collaborate with the designers for the Elliott Bay Seawall Project to develop a permanently-sited public artwork that will that contribute to habitat restoration and the development of public open space along the seawall. Simpson is an internationally recognized public artist based in Seattle, with permanent projects in the U.S. and Canada. He has exhibited and participated in design teams around the world, often addressing environmental issues in his work. He received his Bachelor of Arts and Master of Fine Arts from the University of Michigan.
Stephen Vitiello has been commissioned for an integrated, sound-based artwork for the new Waterfront. Born in New York City, Vitiello lives and works in Richmond, Virginia, where he is Associate Professor in the department of Kinetic Imaging at Virginia Commonwealth University. He began his career as a punk guitarist and composer, and moved into sound as an artistic medium around 1990. In 1999 he was artist-in-residence in the World Trade Center, resulting in a widely presented field-recorded installation. Recent solo exhibitions include All Those Vanished Engines, MASS MoCA, North Adams, MA (2011-2016) and A Bell For Every Minute, The High Line, NYC (2010-2011). Vitiello’s work is featured in the current MoMA exhibition Soundings, the first major US museum survey of sound art. Working with the sound-filled setting of the Seattle Waterfront, Vitiello will use sound as a major component in a new work that will expand visitors’ experience .
Temporary projects and events will continue throughout the construction period. These will include larger-scale temporary art installations, as well as talks, conferences, and smaller interventions.