City councilmembers to consider spending leftover Reconnect West Seattle money for tribal art project under the bridge

(Image from council-committee agenda, incorporating Google Maps photo)

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 project is with the Suquamish and Muckleshoot Tribes, described in the plan as having “Duwamish ancestors” (the same description used during the ceremony before the bridge reopened last year).

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.

30 Replies to "City councilmembers to consider spending leftover Reconnect West Seattle money for tribal art project under the bridge"

  • Anne Helene Cagney December 4, 2023 (9:10 pm)

    ENOUGH! This money should go to the Duwamish Tribe and THIS CITY needs to help the Duwamish Tribe be recognized by The United State of America Federal Government. It is time. 

    • Clinker December 4, 2023 (9:56 pm)

      Hear hear. Placing tribal art on support columns that form the literal foundation for the bridge, a monument to our worship of cars and environmental destruction, is an anathema.Use the money to help the tribe collectively do something good.

    • Toni Reineke December 4, 2023 (9:59 pm)


  • Tae December 4, 2023 (9:50 pm)

    This project should be given to the Duwamish, what’s stopping that? Come on Seattle we can do better than the Bush Administration did to them!

  • Deb Barker December 4, 2023 (9:55 pm)

    I know it’s just politics, but to me this is just wrong, wrong, wrong. The Seattle City Council needs to hear from community members about this ‘cultural land grab’ ASAP.  E-mail comments to Seattle City Council: Comment remotely at the Dec. 5, 2023 9:30am Transportation Committee meeting by signing up beginning at 7:30am. It’s Item #10, CB #120726 on Dec. 5 agendaRegister online to speak during the Public Comment period at the meeting at : Alternatively, head to City Hall by 9:30 for in-person public comment. Thank You. 

  • Toni Reineke December 4, 2023 (9:58 pm)

    Agreed! It should go to the Duwamish!!!!! 

  • Clay Eals December 4, 2023 (10:11 pm)

    This 20-minute video from six years ago should bolster arguments that the art project be given to the Duwamish Tribe:

    • BJ Bullert December 5, 2023 (8:48 am)

      Great job, Clay. Thanks for posting this.

  • Alki resident December 4, 2023 (10:16 pm)

    My entire house inside and out didn’t cost $133,000 to paint . Why would it cost so much? Cant the money go towards something more useful and needed?

    • Brian December 5, 2023 (7:49 am)

      Did you cover your house with murals inside and out?

      • Alki resident December 5, 2023 (4:34 pm)

        Did you completely miss the point? 

  • abovealki December 5, 2023 (7:40 am)

    On the lower level of Spokane St. east of the high bridge, there was a similar project done after they rebuilt the viaduct about ten years ago. Some nice graphics, intended to cover up the ugly monotony of the hundreds of support columns. Within a short while, they were all defaced and graffiti-ed, and they have never been cleaned and restored. I suspect any artwork on the west side (the new project) will unfortunately result in the same.

    • WSB December 5, 2023 (9:28 am)

      That project is mentioned in the story above.

  • Alki gal December 5, 2023 (7:57 am)

    According to the decision making timeline, this decision to ‘give’ the Muckleshoot and Suquamish tribes an art-related platform is a stick-in-the-eye to the West Seattle community, not just to the Duwamish Tribe.Sadly, this Ordinance shows the complicity of the Mayor’s office and the Reconnect bridge planners to use the columns under the Bridge to ‘build trust’ with these federally recognized tribes.  That is wrong, and is essentially giving a platform to these casino tribes for their own branding agenda.

  • SlimJim December 5, 2023 (8:15 am)

    I think it’s probably about the money. The city knows the Muckleshoots and other federally-recognized tribes have access to a lot more money, whether federal or gaming money. The city figures it can then partner with them on projects and count on that money coming through.

  • RD December 5, 2023 (8:28 am)

    We keep wasting money on projects that have no return on investment. Painting concrete pillars ridiculous. 

    • WestSeattleBadTakes December 5, 2023 (11:23 am)

      Yes! We can’t build or make things humans enjoy if there is no return! Art? Phooey! Making things beautiful just because? Nonsense! Designing spaces for people to gather and enjoy? Only if people have to spend money!

      • Alki resident December 5, 2023 (4:37 pm)

        Are you going to be gathering around the pillars?

  • Seattle walker December 5, 2023 (8:34 am)

    This is completely disrespectful of the Duwamish. This project is an example of revisionist history, made to sound appropriate by calling out that the Muckleshoot have Duwamish ancestors. Awarding them this project is perpetuating the damage of the colonial system, not fixing it (by being inclusive). Rewriting Seattle’s history.Shame on the city and shame on the City Council. More backroom dealing.  Parks is doing similar injury by now insisting that the totem poles at Victor Steinbrueck Park, designed by Coast Salish artist Marvin Oliver, celebrating the Market and Seattle area be removed permanently and replaced with Muckleshoot and Suquamish art. Who is in charge?  What happened to thoughtful consideration and collaboration? Is this the new Seattle?

  • WSDAD December 5, 2023 (8:58 am)

    I am all for supporting the native arts but I think the money would be better spent repainting the main roads in West Seattle. You can’t see the road markers on 35th at night and it’s super dangerous in the rain. I have thought about starting a gofund me to paint the paint the roads myself. 

  • rose December 5, 2023 (9:16 am)

    I am thrilled to hear this news! I have wanted some kind of art on ALL the pillars along Spokane. This is a great wonderful investment!

  • Jeff December 5, 2023 (10:32 am)

    Respect the Duwamish and recognize them already!!! This is absurd! Why are they forcing Muckleshoot down the throat here?

    • SlimJim December 5, 2023 (9:59 pm)

      Muckleshoots are federally recognized and have gaming money. The city wants to slide in sideways on that project money, or have the Muckleshoots slide in.

  • Alki gal December 5, 2023 (10:38 am)

    I think having any eye-catching art beneath the bridge could be a safety hazard for drivers, especially when distracted drivers are involved in an increasing number of accidents.  The area is already dimly lit, worse when raining, and it’s a complicated intersection with buses, bikes, trucks, motorcycles, cars, wheelchairs, and pedestrians – some with 4 legs.

  • second that December 5, 2023 (11:37 am)

    Wouldn’t it be great if we spent public funds on maintaining the architecture that we have in place – like, idk maybe fix the waterfall/tsunami drainage issue from the WS upper deck to spokane street. So perhaps we could all drive safer in the rain. Just a thought. Tell the City Council to get a clue.

  • WSB December 5, 2023 (11:53 am)

    The vote on this was delayed until the committee reconvenes next month, by request of Councilmember Lisa Herbold (whose District 1 successor Rob Saka will be in office by then). I’m writing a separate followup. – TR

  • Nickolaus Hendel December 5, 2023 (12:39 pm)

    Listen to your heart:We, West Seattle people , need alot of volunteers to make this city beautiful.However, we also, need people to be on the same page!  Let’s help one another in a collective forum.Let’s work together for a collective theme.  Maybe, the money should include all the groups that are in need of it!This includes the homeless. Low income, and the likes.Respectfully,Nickolaus

  • RLV December 5, 2023 (2:47 pm)

    This should be an opportunity for the Duwamish tribe. It’s their land. 

  • Alki resident December 5, 2023 (4:40 pm)

    I feel this art will distract drivers and cause accidents. It’s nice having the concrete gray stay the way it is so people can focus on the road. It’s already a bit too busy in that area as is. 

  • Alki gal December 5, 2023 (5:22 pm)

    Glad the decision has been postponed, but where will Rob Saka stand on this? Will he fall in line with the Mayor or stand up for West Seattlelites and the Duwamish?

Sorry, comment time is over.