Sound Transit’s proposed art for two light rail stations in Kent appears to be well received so far unlike the controversy that surrounded a elephant sculpture for the Federal Way station.
“The designs that have been reviewed by the Kent Arts Commission so far have been very well received,” said Ronda Billerbeck, city of Kent parks facility/program manager, in a Nov. 10 email. “I’m confident that our process with Sound Transit has been an effective one that will result in quality artwork that represents the community and locations in various ways.”
After pressure from the community and unanimous disapproval from the Federal Way City Council, Sound Transit decided earlier this month to scrap the proposed elephant sculpture idea from the Federal Way Link Extension plans.
A 7.8-mile extension of light rail from SeaTac to Federal Way is under construction and expected to be completed in 2024. As part of the $3.1 billion project, Sound Transit finds artists to create pieces for each light rail station, two in Kent and one in Federal Way.
The agency will spend about $3 million for eight permanent artworks, including three at the Kent/Des Moines station, two at the Star Lake South 272nd Street station in Kent and three at the Federal Way Transit Center station. Sound Transit established its art program in 1997 and spends 1% of the hard construction budget on art to help make the stations more welcoming and pleasing to residents and passengers.
Billerbeck explained the process for selecting the artists and their work.
“Artists have been selected for each station, and they are in various phases of developing their artwork concepts,” Billerbeck said. “The artists were selected by panels that consisted of city of Kent staff, Kent Arts commissioners, professional artists and community members. There was a separate panel for each of the two stations. The panels reviewed artist-applicants’ previous work and resumes, and then finalists were selected and interviewed in person by the full panels.”
The 16-member Kent Arts Commission advises the City Council and includes Councilmember Brenda Fincher as a council liaison.
Billerbeck said Sound Transit’s Art Program has been closely involved at each stage of station conception and design. Sound Transit’s agreement with the city of Kent required that themes be identified for each station and the art selection and design process has adhered closely to the themes that were identified through community outreach, including meetings and surveys.
The themes in Kent are “confluence” for the Kent Des Moines Station at Pacific Highway South and “luminescence” for the Star Lake Station at South 272nd Street near Interstate 5.
Three artists were selected to create artwork for the Kent Des Moines station:
■ Re:site Studio, based out of Houston, Texas, is creating a two dimensional design that will be applied to the station glass glazing. They are currently finalizing their scope of work and budget.
■ Artist Michelle de la Vega, based in both Seattle and Minnesota, will create a free-standing aluminum and steel sculpture that will be located in the plaza area outside the parking garage. She was able to engage Kent residents in community engagement sessions prior to the pandemic and is currently in the design/engineering phase.
■ Artist Chris Jordan, based in Tacoma, will create a suspended sculpture for the garage entry. Jordan is refining his design and working towards community engagement.
Two artists were selected to create artwork for the Star Lake station:
■ Seattle-based artist team Tory and Eroyn Franklin are creating two-dimensional art that will be applied to the station finishes, including platform and entry glass, as well as the breezeway south wall and ceiling. They are finalizing scope and design development.
■ Tacoma artist Jordan also was selected to design a sculpture for the Star Lake garage entry area. He is working on design development and community engagement.
All of the artists will bring their concepts to the full Kent Arts Commission for review and input before proceeding, Billerbeck said. Currently, the Arts Commission has reviewed designs by Re:site Studio, de la Vega and Tory and Eroyn Franklin. Plans are to bring Jordan’s design concepts to the Arts Commission in early 2021. In each case, the Arts Commission has the opportunity to ask questions of and provide direct input to both the artists themselves and Sound Transit Art staff.
Kelly Peterson, the city’s light rail liaison to Sound Transit, plans an update to the City Council about the light rail project in early 2021 and the artwork concepts and status of the work is expected to be part of that presentation, Billerbeck said.