The city is planning to give two tribes $133,000 for public art on up to 14 columns supporting part of the west end of the West Seattle Bridge. Neither happens to be the Duwamish Tribe, whose longhouse is about a mile south.
The art project is on the agenda for tomorrow morning’s meeting of the Seattle City Council Transportation and Public Utilities Committee; documents say it’s been under discussion for a year and a half.
If you just gave the agenda a once-over, as we did, you might not have noticed – the item is #10 on a busy agenda, with no mention of art or the bridge in the item title – “AN ORDINANCE relating to the Seattle Department of Transportation; authorizing and directing the Director of the Seattle Department of Transportation to execute interlocal agreements with the Suquamish (suq̀ʷabs) Tribe and Muckleshoot (bəqəlšuł) Tribe; and ratifying and confirming certain prior acts,” until you open the slide deck linked from the agenda.
A community advocate called our attention to it. As explained in another agenda document:
This legislation would authorize the SDOT Director to execute interlocal agreements with the Suquamish and Muckleshoot Tribes, funded by $133,000 in remaining funds from the Reconnect West Seattle program. Reconnect West Seattle is the nearly complete mitigation program within the larger West Seattle Bridge Safety Project (ie., the WSB repair and mitigation program). These funds have been budgeted since early in the project for such a tribal partnership … The agreements compensate the two tribes for painting art murals on the Fauntleroy Expressway columns, near the intersection of W Marginal Way SW and Chelan Ave SW which connects the West Seattle Junction with the West Seattle High Bridge. The purpose of the project is to honor the people whose homeland, hunting, and fishing territories Seattle now inhabits, and to build trust between the City and the federally recognized Muckleshoot and Suquamish tribes. Under the agreement, the murals must be completed in 2024 and each tribe will be compensated up to $66,000 for their work
Federal recognition is something the Duwamish Tribe has been fighting for for decades, winning it briefly at the end of the Clinton Administration, only to have the incoming Bush Administration cancel it.
Though the documents say the art will be entirely the Muckleshoot and Suquamish tribes’ responsibility, they also say the city will have to review and approve each design and its accompanying narrative, with these parameters:
The City’s design review will focus on ensuring that the Column Murals’ colors do not mimic those used in traffic signage and that the content does not contain offensive material directed toward any group of people. The City shall retain the right to review and provide feedback on the proposed design within thirty (30) days from the date of receipt of the submission.
And for everyone who worries about defacement risk for public art:
The Tribe shall adhere to the recommendations provided by the City concerning the Column Murals installation to ensure optimal and long-lasting results, as well as ease of cleaning in the event of graffiti. Recommendations may include, but are not limited to, the following: installation within the dry season of 2024 (e.g. June – August); preparation of columns (e.g. power washing, priming), application of quality exterior latex paint; mural protection (e.g. MuralShield), graffiti protection (e.g. Sherwin-Williams Anti-Graffiti Coating). The City shall be responsible for obtaining and covering the cost of any necessary permits for the Column Murals. The Tribe shall be responsible for securing traffic control support from a licensed traffic control provider … The Tribe and the City shall share the responsibility of maintaining and repairing the columns and Column Murals as set forth herein.
This won’t be the first official art project on bridge columns; toward the other end of the bridge, beneath the Spokane Street Viaduct section, bar-code-inspired designs were painted on columns in a $400,000+ project more than a decade ago.. Meantime, you can comment at tomorrow’s 9:30 am committee meeting, remotely or in-person, as explained on the agenda, or just watch via the Seattle Channel.