Via Daryn blog, I find that Mike Ross, the artist who was chosen to work on the art in Capitol Hill Station, is concerned his project might be canceled due to public outcry over the use of decommissioned fighter jets in the installation:

————— Forwarded message —————
From: Mike Ross>
Date: May 22, 2008 11:04 AM
Subject: Sculpture may be canceled — please help
To: Mike Ross>

Hey folks. As some of you know, I was selected to make a sculpture for Seattle’s new subway station in the Capitol Hill neighborhood. I proposed a sort of stylistic sequel to Big Rig Jig, using a pair of fighter jets. The jets would be deconstructed into pieces, painted pink and orange, and spread out along organically-inspired curves above the station platform between the ceiling beams (they have high ceilings in this station). The exact design is not yet finished. But you can see mock-ups of some early variations here:

The project is in now in danger of being canceled, and I need your help.

Several people have written letters to Seattle’s transit agency, Sound Transit, complaining that the piece is offensive, a glorification of war, and culturally insensitive to neighborhood residents. The area’s 43rd-District Democrats have even passed a resolution officially condemning the sculpture:…

Unfortunately, the only people who have been moved to write letters are those who object to the sculpture, and the transit agency is seriously considering canceling the project. It has been demoted from “approved” to “not yet approved,” and the rest of the station development is now proceeding without the sculpture, until we can
demonstrate significant community support.

I am hoping that some of you might know people in or near Capitol Hill, Seattle, who can see the potential of the sculpture, and who disagree with the idea that it is offensive or a glorification of war. It may use military technology, but it is not just a pair of jets — it’s jets, chopped up, painted pink, and made to look like two birds
kissing. There is a peaceful message there, and I believe the artwork will ultimately be accepted by its detractors as an object and process which references many of their own views. But before that can happen, the transit agency needs to know that there are people in the community who support the sculpture.

If you know anyone who might wish to write a letter or email (emails are just as good), they should send it to the following two people:
Joni Earl, CEO
Sound Transit
401 S. Jackson St.
Seattle, WA 98104

Barbara Luecke, STart Program Manager
Sound Transit
401 S. Jackson St.
Seattle, WA 98104

Thanks for any help you can offer. Please feel free to forward this email.

Mike Ross

The 43rd Democrats protested the piece for being culturally insensitive? That’s embarrassing. I can understand thinking a local artist should do the piece, though I’ve seen a lot of local art and I’m not always impressed. Knowing these people are out to sabotage the art, and put something in that inspires less conversation makes me more attracted to the art than I was before. I think using the warplanes as art pays homage to Seattle’s former reputation as the Jet City, though it’s fair for recent migrants to Seattle to not appreciate this. I also think two pink fighter jets kissing is a nice play on “swords to ploughshares“. I also think it’s ironic that people who claim to fight for tolerance and a range of ideas oppose something that falls outside their way of thinking.

I like it, and I’ve written emails to those mentioned above. What do you think? Is this really culturally insensitive or an over reaction?

19 Replies to “Capitol Hill Station Art Project Getting Cancelled?”

  1. i think most of the public art in seattle (particularly the transit commissions) is ignorable at best, and cringe-worthy at worst – something that can actually get people thinking and discussing as this piece has could be a good (and rare) thing. it’ll be interesting to see if the artist can pull it off.

  2. Not to offend anyone, but art belongs in museums. If the station design itself is art by architecture, thats something different, but if 1% (correct me if I’m wrong with this figure) of the construction cost goes to art costs on a project as big as link, thats a substantial curtailing of funds.

    I’m not against art and stations representing neighborhood culture, I’m against art taking up scarce transportation funding. The BART stations in the Bay area are pretty bleak when it comes to art, some have unique architecture, but thats about it, and no one spends THAT much time in the stations as it is!

    You could even say some of the BART station styles are so dated in style, they are almost back in style…

    A few examples of functional art via architecture:
    Berkeley Station
    Balboa Park Station
    Lake Merritt Station
    Embarcadero Station
    And of course Metro Center Station

  3. my reaction to the thing was that it was just kind of lame. according to his own testimony, he based the idea on a continuation of previous work and a few really lame google searches, which to me says that we should find an artist who is a lot more invested in both the space and the neighborhood.

  4. I actually like it. I bet the Democrats just don’t like it because of the Iraq War; that’s why i’m a Republican.

    But aside from my political preferences, I really like the sculpture and could be the next big thing in subway station-artworks.


  5. runnerodb83,
    ST has no choice but to devote 1% of funds to art, because the FTA requires it.

  6. Thanks for reposting this!

    runnerodb83, your opinion about art belonging in museums is valid, and there is no doubt that the merits of public art can be argued.

    Personally, I think that it improves our day-to-day quality of life, seeing art in our own environments, and not having to go to the special places where the art lives.

    That said, in this case, the focus isn’t art or no art, but this particular piece.

  7. runnerodb83, this isn’t really the arena to debate whether we should have public art or not – that’s a state, local and federal standard. Tunneling money is excluded from the 1%, I might add.

  8. Sorry all, I guess I’m just frusterated that scarce transporation money goes to art such as this to begin with. While I agree that art adds to the environment, I guess I just wish there was a more economical way of doing it.

    As for this particular project, I think the art should present a more subtle statement reflecting the diverse communities of Capital Hill. The only appropriate station I could see this artwork in would be the proposed fill-in Boeing Field station.

  9. Something official about the station art from ST:

    Capitol Hill Art Forum

    Sound Transit has received a great deal of comment about the proposed artwork for the University Link Capitol Hill Station, both positive and negative. Sound Transit and the lead artist are listening to these comments and concerns and are thinking about how to address them. The artist is also working on refining the presentation materials so they more accurately portray what he intends for the artwork.

    In order to continue the dialogue and present updated art proposal designs to the public, Sound Transit, the Capitol Hill Arts Center, the Capitol Hill Chamber and Ignition Northwest are co-hosting a panel discussion on the proposed artwork for the Capitol Hill light rail station. The artists, Mike Ross and Ellen Forney, will give a short presentation on their latest proposals, followed by panel member responses and a public discussion about the artwork.

    Wednesday, June 11, 2008
    5:30 – 7:30 PM
    Capitol Hill Arts Center, 1621 12th Ave
    Seattle, WA

  10. What’s the big deal here? Out on Sandpoint, in Magnuson Park there is a well-known sculpture in which the foundation parts are the fins from atomic submarines used for first strike capability – the swords into plough shares concept already mentioned in this thread. Is Seattle so provincial that they cannot abide an “outside” artist’s work?

  11. Art belongs only in museums? That comment is exactly what’s wrong with narrow thinking in general. Art is about experiencing beauty in the every day, about making the small moments of our lives better and more interesting. If anything, art belongs OUT of museums and in the places where we can enjoy it, be provoked to think by it, and have our minds tickled by it. This piece in particular is thought-provoking in many marvelous ways. Not only will it be something cool to look at, it will also cause us to think, and we won’t all think the same things because of it. That’s a great starting point for some interesting dialog. I believe Seattle is an intellectual enough place for just this sort of art. I whole-heartedly support the proposal.

  12. How dissapointing that a vocal minority will try to bury the work of an artist selected by a local panel of peers, in a competitive process. The notion that this is inappropriate because of the use of military aircraft suggests a lack of appreciation of abstract concepts. Seattle is a vibrant place because of the willingness to take risks and engage art in our lives. We take for granted what is far from a given in many places. Look around you and consider all the options. Look at every public building, whether county, city, port or transit, and appreciate that art is incorporated in the design. Yes it is 1%, but only of capitol costs of construction, not operational costs, and there are some limits. So the actual cost is quite modest. And as someone noted, with the transit project, much is excluded. Nobody is getting rich off making this or any other art. And some have decried the selection of artists from out of the region. This logic would suggest that we ban performers from out of town, and perhaps pull all books from the library if the author did not live and die in Washington. There are many artists living in Seattle who are selected for commissions in other states and countries, because they are good! Should we really confine our vision, and input to only locals? If so, expect a quid pro quo from other regions and watch vibrant artistic dialogue cease and regionalism prevail. Grow up folks, good art may not always be comfortable, but should engage dialogue and thought. In that, the effort has already been successful.

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