Public Art

Art empowers people to better to understand their communities and their lives. Art increases the liveliness and vitality of a city, and even improves property value. In the more than 40 years since the signing of the public art ordinance, the Office of Arts & Culture has invested in creating vibrant public areas through public art. Seattle was one of the first cities in the United States to adopt a percent-for-art ordinance in 1973. For more than 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.

The program specifies that 1% 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, community centers, on roadways, bridges and other public venues, we enrich residents’ daily lives while giving voice to artists.

Permanently Sited Artwork, Temporary Projects & Activations

The City’s public art collection includes more than 450 permanently sited and integrated works and nearly 3,000 portable works. Artworks are commissioned through a public process, with artists selected by panels comprised of professional visual artists along with community and city representatives evaluate the artist applicants. The city stewards and maintains its artworks through an ongoing program of coordinated conservation activities, which include inspections, major restorative work and routine maintenance.

Roger Fernandes carved a selection of stones with the Transformer Story in petroglyphic designs and set them in the open space area of the Cedar River Municipal Watershed park.

This year, the Office of Arts & Culture made several portable works purchases to add to the City’s collection of art that is displayed in municipal buildings. Portable Works purchases included a Seattle Public Utilities Native American Artwork purchase comprised of 25 works by 13 artists; a Seattle Public Utilities Cultural Perspectives artwork purchase comprised of 66 artworks by 45 artists including 40 artists of color; and a Seattle City Light Portable works purchase comprised of 56 artworks by 36 artists.


Juan Alonso-Rodriguez works as an artist in residence in the Seattle Presents Gallery at the base of the Seattle Municipal Tower. The Gallery hosted a variety of exhibitions and residencies throughout 2015. Photo: Elisheba Johnson

The City maintains five galleries on the City’s municipal campus. These galleries showcase the City’s collection, display new and developing works and promote the work of emerging artists. Each gallery presented multiple exhibitions and residencies over the course of 2015. City Hall and Anne Focke Gallery:

The Ethnic Heritage Gallery featured exhibitions by Sharon Egretta Sutton, Naoko Morisawa, Jazz Brown and Susan Emery.

Seattle Municipal Tower Gallery featured the exhibitions Monochrome, Play, SPU Native American Artwork purchase, and City Light portable works purchase.

The Mayor’s Gallery featured exhibitions by McAlister Merchant, Jr., Cheryl Leo-Gwin, Yeggy Michael, and Lauren Iida.

Seattle Presents Gallery presented residencies by Juan Alonso-Rodriguez, Sara Osebold, Carolina Silva, Joseph Seymour, Jr., and Ryan Fedderson, and an installation of Low Res images.

Conserving the City’s Public Art Collection

The City of Seattle’s public art collection includes more than 450 permanently-sited artworks comprised of a broad range of media and conservation requirements. Often working closely with artists and consultants, conservation staff fulfills vital preventive and restorative treatments each year, concentrating on best practices and sustainability.

The Watergate structure at Meadowbrook Pond was rebuilt from the ground up, with the replacement of all wood beams and support lumber, roofing materials, handrails and cables. Photo: Tiffany Hedrick

More than 30 artworks received major conservation in 2015, and another 60 works in the collection were treated for routine preservation. On the grounds of the Woodland Park Zoo, Miles Pepper’s wind sculpture Morphauna was repainted and its kinetic mechanisms were overhauled to ensure continued mobility. Electrical renovation and re-lamping was conducted for The Seventh Climate (Paradise Reconsidered), a conceptual work by John Roloff that incorporates lighting and irrigation to activate the I-5 Colonnade Park in the Eastlake neighborhood. On Beacon Hill, artist Val Laigo’s East is West received crucial restoration to the bronze components. The Watergate structure at Meadowbrook Pond was rebuilt from the ground up, with the replacement of all wood beams and support lumber, roofing materials, handrails and cables. And at Myrtle Edwards Park, Michael Heizer’s iconic Adjacent, Against, Upon received nearly 17 tons of fresh gravel for a major regrading of the foundation.

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