Art and the waterfront vision

Arts and culture will play a central role on the waterfront, through permanent commissions, live arts and entertainment, and the creation of new cultural spaces for artistic production and presentation. Responding to the history of the site, its ecology, economy, and communities, the art program will help to create a sense of place on the renewed waterfront that will act as an invitation to residents and visitors alike.

Permanent artworks

Shaun Peterson

"Seattle is named after our Coast Salish Chief, and in honor of that I hope that my work will demonstrate that Native art is not static. Our people are part of this land and its history, but most importantly we are part of the present."

Artist Shaun Peterson, of Milton, WA, has been selected for a commission on the Seattle Waterfront. Peterson is a pivotal figure in contemporary Coast Salish art traditions, and is a member of the Puyallup tribe. He has major installations throughout the Northwest, ranging from works created in wood, glass and metal. Peterson will work with the city and its design team to develop a site-specific artwork or artist designed space that reflects the Coast Salish tribes that have a historic connection to this territory.


Cedric Bomford

The Seattle Office of Arts & Culture has selected artist Cedric Bomford to join a team of architects, planners and city designers to develop play areas and equipment for Waterfront Seattle over the next several years. Bomford’s interest lies in the built environment and the politics embedded within it. A Canadian artist working in photography and installation, Bomford is currently based in Winnipeg, where he is an assistant professor in the University of Manitoba School of Art. This project is his first in the U.S.


Ann Hamilton

"Seattle is making the quality of its public spaces a central project in the imagination of the city. And I'm really thrilled to be able to participate and be part of that."

Internationally recognized artist Ann Hamilton has been selected for a commission on the new public piers as part of Waterfront Seattle. Hamilton, known for large-scale, sensory installations, is the recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship and has also represented the United States at the Venice Biennale. She will join a team of architects, planners and city designers to create the project over the next several years. Hamilton is known for recent installations such as the event of a thread at the Park Avenue Armory in New York, and tower · Oliver Ranch, in Geyserville, California. Seattle audiences will recognize her LEW Wood Floor at the Seattle Central Library, with raised letters spelling out the first sentences from books in the library's collection in 11 languages. In addition, the Henry Art Gallery will host an eponymous exhibition of Hamilton's work in October, 2014.


Norie Sato

"One of my hopes for the waterfront is that it creates moments of magic and wonder for people who live here, and may feel very familiar with Seattle, and yet when they come down to the waterfront, there will be moments where they feel, 'Wow, this is a fantastic place.'"

Norie Sato was chosen to collaborate with the project design team to create an original artwork or series of artworks on the rebuilt east-west Union and/or Seneca streets between First Avenue and Alaskan Way. This project has a personal connection for the artist: in 1991, Sato created a temporary artwork on the waterfront that marked the location of her arrival to this country by ship.


Buster Simpson

"The environmental restoration of the urban water’s edge calls for an honest aesthetic, with dynamic agility in the face of climate change, as we enter the human-influenced Anthropocene Epoch."

Buster Simpson will collaborate with the designers for the Elliott Bay Seawall Project to develop a permanently-sited public artwork that will contribute to habitat restoration and the development of public open space along the seawall. Working with the idea of the "Anthropocene Beach," Simpson will integrate natural and manmade materials to reveal human alteration and reconstruction of the waterfront. Simpson is an internationally recognized public artist based in Seattle, with permanent projects in the U.S. and Canada. He has exhibited and participated in design teams around the world, often addressing environmental issues in his work.


Stephen Vitiello

"The Seattle waterfront is beautiful and ever-changing—misty, then sunny, then rainy. It inspired the idea of a piece that would be environmentally played, that would change with the weather and tides."

Stephen Vitiello has been commissioned for an integrated, sound-based artwork for the new Waterfront. Born in New York City, Vitiello lives and works in Richmond, Virginia, where he is Associate Professor in the department of Kinetic Imaging at Virginia Commonwealth University. He began his career as a punk guitarist and composer, and moved into sound as an artistic medium around 1990. In 1999 he was artist-in-residence in the World Trade Center, resulting in a widely presented field-recorded installation. Recent solo exhibitions include All Those Vanished Engines, MASS MoCA, North Adams, MA (2011-2016) and A Bell For Every Minute, The High Line, NYC (2010-2011). Vitiello's work was featured in the 2013 MoMA exhibition Soundings, the first major US museum survey of sound art. Working with the sound-filled setting of the Seattle waterfront, Vitiello will use sound as a major component in a new work that will expand visitors' experience of the place.


Oscar Tuazon

"In public space, art is something you touch, it’s yours. My work in public includes people: a place to sit out of the rain; a tree turned into a fountain; a spot to play basketball. A sculpture is like a pedestal for people, a stage."

Oscar Tuazon was born in Indianola, WA, and first learned sculpture from Suquamish carvers Larry Ahvakana and Ed Carriere. His work has been shown in solo museum exhibitions in Switzerland, France, Germany, and England, and was included in the 2011 Venice Biennale and the 2012 Whitney Biennial. He is currently based in Los Angeles and the Olympic Peninsula.

He plans to work with frequent collaborators, his brother, the glassblower and artist Elias Hansen, and architect Antoine Rocca. His work with Hansen has been shown regularly in Seattle, including exhibitions at the Seattle Art Museum and Western Bridge.

Waterfront Exchange

Summer 2016 art on the waterfront

In the summer of 2016, Waterfront Exchange brought a series of temporary art installations and events to Seattle’s central waterfront. These free public art installations featured colorful posters, subversive signage, an emerging goddess and a photographic tableau. Waterfront Exchange was a project of Waterfront Seattle and the Seattle Office of Arts & Culture, funded both by 1% for Art (SDOT) and by the Office of the Waterfront.

Colors Are Fragrant, Union Street stairs

Photo of Jeffry Mitchell

Jeffry Mitchell collaborated with regional artists and screenprinters to make a series of posters. These posters were wheat-pasted as a large mural on the wall where Union Street meets Western Avenue, a connection point between downtown and the waterfront. 

Seven Signs, Waterfront Park

Photo of Fabiola Carranza

Fabiola Carranza’s installation featured seven colorful road signs made in collaboration with Robin Ford of the Seattle Department of Transportation. These signs, with texts appropriated from English- and Spanish-language comic books, employed satirical language to question orders and to challenge and interrupt power dynamics.

Outburst, Pike Street Hillclimb

Photo of Nicole Kistler

Nicole Kistler unleashed a sleeping goddess and transformed the west side of the elevator tower of Pike Street Hillclimb. The artwork portrayed the arms of a once-sleeping goddess emerging from an abundance of vines and growth, reaching to the sky and stars.

I’m a reader not a philosopher, Waterfront Park

Photo of Martine Syms
Photo of Marco Kane

Martine Syms and Marco Kane Braunschweiler placed photographic images on plexiglas around the seating area of an amphitheater, as if on a stage.

A vase of achingly beautiful flowers the moment before their petals fall…, Seawall construction fencing near the Seattle Aquarium

Photo of Heather and Ivan Morison

Heather and Ivan Morison, working with designer James Langdon, produced a series of texts on construction fence banners. The Morisons’ texts referred to objects and everyday situations in a way that connected them to other places, people, or emotions.

Low Res

Low Res, a series of short waterfront residencies that convenes artists in many fields to respond to the waterfront in a variety of ways, began in summer 2014. Each artist selected is an expert in their field(s) and will enlist a suite of artists in their work. The results will be developed into in-person and virtual presentations. Learn more on the City's Office of Arts and Culture website.

Class of 2015

Alice Wheeler

Alice Wheeler is a photographer who has been shooting Seattle people and landscapes since the 1980s. Her photography of figures in the punk and grunge scenes are canonical Seattle portraits.

Canh Nguyen

Canh Nguyen received his BFA in Photography from Cornish College of the Arts in 2012. He was director of cinematography for "Even the Walls," a documentary on the redevelopment of Yesler Terrace, the nation's first integrated public housing project. 

Eirik Johnson

Eirik Johnson is a photographer and teacher with a long interest in Northwest landscapes and economies. His Sawdust Mountain, exploring the timber industry, showed at the Henry Art Gallery 2009-2010.

Class of 2014

Eyvind Kang

Eyvindur Kang is an American composer, violist, violinist, tuba, and erhu player. He was raised in Canada and the United States, and has since lived and worked in countries ranging from Italy to Iceland.

Joshua Beckman

Joshua Beckman is an American poet, and editor at the Seattle press Wave Books. He is the author of six collections of poetry, including Take It, Shake, and Things Are Happening, which won the first annual Honickman-APR book award.

Michelle Dunn Marsh

Michelle Dunn Marsh is the Executive Director of Photo Center NW. Dunn Marsh's professional experience includes fifteen years with Aperture Foundation in New York City, first as a designer and later as deputy director for the organization, and as Co-Publisher of Aperture magazine.

Lecture series

During the design and construction of the waterfront, the Seattle Office of Arts & Culture has developed a program of talks, conferences, temporary projects, and residencies, addressing the history, systems, design, and wider contexts of Seattle’s waterfront.

Art, Design & Play conference – March 2014

A conference on the intersections of art, design and play, presented by Seattle’s Office of Arts & Culture in partnership with the Waterfront Program and Friends of Waterfront Seattle. 

Art, Design & Play program (PDF, 1.31 MB)

Art, Design & Play highlights

"The Child, the City and the Power of Play. Or, the PIP Principle"

Vienna-based architectural historian Liane Lefaivre discussed play as a design tool for architects, city planners, and public artists. Lefaivre is a Professor and Chair of Architectural History and Theory at the University of Applied Arts in Vienna. She has been a visiting Fellow at MIT and the National University of Singapore, and is an award-winning author of many books, including Ground-Up City: Play as a Design Tool.


"The Play Sculpture as Public Space”

Gabriela Burkhalter, Swiss playground historian and curator, and Tatiana Choulika, part of the Waterfront Seattle design team and designer at James Corner Field Operations, spoke on the approach to landscape and play in jcfo designs for New York, Chicago and Santa Monica. 

Coll Thrush: Going ‘Native’ – December 2013

"Going 'Native': Urban Iconography and the Uses (and Abuses) of the Indigenous and Settler Past"

The City of Seattle Office of Arts & Culture kicked off its Waterfront Seattle inspired lecture series with historian and author Coll Thrush. Thrush was introduced by Leonard Forsman, Chairman of the Suquamish Tribal Council.

Art Plan

A Working Plan for Art on the Central Seattle Waterfront was completed in fall 2012. The plan is rooted in a vision of the Seattle waterfront's history as a port and a working waterfront. Its finger piers are traces of earlier port operations, still highly visible on Harbor Island to the south and shipping piers to the north. The port is a sign of Seattle's role as a connected, open, global city, exporting and importing raw materials, goods, software, ideas, and culture. Artists can bring new working life to the waterfront, and their works and projects can participate in the waterfront's economic and cultural exchanges. Artists working on permanent projects will be active in public forums and design conversations. Planning for future arts activities and institutions on the waterfront is a significant part of our work.

Art Plan – full document: fall 2012