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People in orange vests look down at the Spring District Station platform, which features art by Louie Gong
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"Dragon and Phoenix" is one of the many new public art pieces to discover when the 2 Line opens on April 27.

The art of our stations: Swirling dragon and phoenix greet new 2 Line riders

Explore new public art on the Eastside, including work by the Coast Salish artist behind the painted aluminum pieces at Spring District Station.

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No matter what direction you’re heading on the 2 Line this spring, when you step off the train at Spring District Station, you’ll be greeted by a friendly but imposing creature twisting along the platform.

Artist Louie Gong, reflecting his Chinese and Nooksack heritage, created a cut metal mural of a dragon to span the eastbound platform wall toward Redmond, and on the other side, a phoenix, also cut metal and comprising a feathery motif common in Coast Salish culture, to span the westbound platform wall toward South Bellevue.

Metallic artwork of a dragon by Louie Gong

At congregating points and benches, passengers face the dragon and the phoenix head-on. They also see details inspired by Gong’s mixed heritage: huckleberry, a symbol of bounty and a nod to his Chinese grandfather, and a hummingbird, a harbinger of good news from his Nooksack grandmother.

He said he had a vision of passengers coming through the station on a moving train and seeing the bigger picture of the dragon and phoenix as they passed through.

“There’s some twisting and turning. I wanted it to look like there’s some movement,” he said. “Passengers can fill in the gaps of the dragon as the phoenix as they’re moving through the station. It mimics old paintings, where clouds cover parts of the dragon, whereas here it’s signs, fire extinguishers and hallways.”

Metallic artwork of a phoenix by Louie Gong

Gong is a self-taught artist who was raised by his grandparents in the Nooksack tribal community. He was the first member of his family to graduate from college, and after working in higher education, he began customizing and selling hand-drawn Vans shoes. He later founded the company Eighth Generation, a Seattle-based art and lifestyle brand where 100 percent of the products are Native-designed.

In 2016, Gong was chosen to create the artwork at Spring District Station by selection panel members from University of Washington, Bellevue Arts Commission, Wright Runstad & Company, Sound Transit, and the Puget Sound arts community.

Gong said the artwork at Spring District Station was an opportunity for Coast Salish people to put their thumbprint on the region’s infrastructure.

“I know how important representation is in infrastructure for humans who are all having a cultural experience,” he said. “If you’re a white American, you’re having your identity validated constantly. Everyone else, those experiences are more rare. If you’re a Coast Salish person, at the time of the project, the opportunities were almost nil. People like me are not used to seeing their identity in infrastructure.”

As a person integrating native and Chinese themes, Gong also said he felt responsibility and pressure to ensure his large-scale visual statement told a true visual story in spaces where true stories haven’t been told.

“It’s nothing that’s on paper or articulated to me, but it’s something I understand,” he said.

You can see Gong’s artwork in person at the new Spring District Station when it opens on April 27 as part of the 2 Line between South Bellevue and Redmond Technology Stations. 

Learn more about the 2 Line stations with our interactive map.

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And there's even more art to explore on the Eastside! Here's a preview: