Sound Transit OCS Poles Win National Art Award

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A national arts organization says an art installation incorporated into Sound Transit’s Link light rail Operations and Maintenance (O&M) Facility is one of the best public art projects in the nation completed between April 2006 to April 2007. 

“Safety Spires” by artists Norie Sato and Dan Corson was honored in the Year in Review that culminated the Annual Americans for the Arts conference in Las Vegas last week.  The tapered tops and distinctive pattern of the overhead centenary system poles, which carry power to light rail vehicles, were inspired by the native horsetail reed plant also known as scouring rush.  

“'Safety Spires' acknowledges the industrial architecture, and makes the site memorable and engaging,” said UCLA contemporary art history professor Miwon Kwon who curated the judging with artist Larry Kirkland. “The reference to the horsetail plant is logical without trying to replicate nature.” 

Americans for the Arts is the nation's leading nonprofit organization for advancing the arts in America.

“Norie and I worked with the Operations and Maintenance facility engineers and planners to create an artwork that spoke to the light rail system, and was incorporated into the infrastructure,” said Corson. “We wanted to bring visibility to things people don’t normally see. Receiving this national recognition for ‘Safety Spires’ is thrilling.”  Corson was also recognized by the Year in Review for “Broward Light Project,” an LED-based art installation in Broward County, Florida.

“Since I have worked as a system artist at Sound Transit for almost ten years, it was really great to be able to work with and celebrate the system elements as we did at the maintenance facility,” states Sato.

Sato became lead artist for the Link Light Rail system in 1998, overseeing the development of a multi-cultural art plan for the South Martin Luther King Jr. corridor and providing a system-wide perspective to the Sound Transit art program. Norie formed a Visual Artist Team (VAT) to define opportunities for artists from varied ethnic backgrounds and incorporate the thinking of artists in the final construction plan. Corson joined VAT in 1999 and collaborated with Norie on the “Safety Spires” design.  Both artists live in Seattle and work in public art nationally.

Sound Transit sets aside 1% of construction costs (less tunneling) for public art.  Sound Transit has commissioned nearly 70 artists to date to integrate works of art throughout the agency’s three-county transit system.  Many of the new works along the Martin Luther King Jr. Corridor are expected to be installed this summer and fall.



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