The concrete forest under Interstate 5 between Seattle’s Cherry and James streets is about to get much more visually appealing.
The city’s First Hill Improvement Association’s column-painting project is well on its way after the announcement of the winning theme last Friday (March 10). The design, “Sunlight over First Hill” by artist and Seattle University student Nathan Watkins, represents the neighborhood’s “architectural history, topography, density and lush tree canopy,” according to the association’s website.
In partnership with the Office of Economic Development (FHIA was awarded the $40,000 2016 Only in Seattle Grant) and Urban Artworks (a Seattle-based nonprofit that provides opportunities for local, young artist to create public art) the project is entering the “permitting” phase with the Washington Department of Transportation, which ultimately gets final say.
The goal of painting nearly 70 concrete pillars, FHIA says, is to “improve and signal important and prominent vehicular and pedestrian entry into First Hill, beautify the streets near coming redevelopment projects and organizations, enhance place-making and identity for First Hill, create opportunities for art in our community and make significant visual and safety improvements to a harsh edge where First Hill meets Downtown.”
Public, community voting decided on Watkins’ sunlight design, and he said that the most challenging part was creating a mural that would be beautiful to drivers and pedestrians alike without being distracting.
“To address this paradox, I established that the pillar images must contain two coexisting experiences in one: to the drivers, they must be non-focal images, lacking detail or complexity but still creating a beautiful, pleasant, and welcoming visual atmosphere. To the pedestrians, however, they must allow for extended focus and visual exploration, necessitating a higher level of detail and complexity,” Watkins said. “Overall, this creates the effect of being eye-catching without actually needing to catch the eye.”
The design and permit process is slated to be complete in April and installation will immediately follow.