D.K. Pan selected as the lead artist for the light rail construction wall

You may have noted the giganimous construction wall that’s going up around the light rail station site. You may also know that Sound Transit put out a call for lead artists for said construction wall. What you didn’t know was that last Wednesday, a panel put together by Sound Transit and made up of Capitol Hill community members (including myself) selected D.K. Pan as the lead artist for the light rail station construction wall.

The construction wall lead artist has the task of curating the work of other artists in a rotating display on the construction wall from 2011 to 2014.  Pan is now charged with the ambitious goal of “[making] the fence surrounding a block of the Broadway neighborhood active, interesting and relevant during the multi-year construction period with art that engages the residents and vistors of the dense urban neighborhood” with a budget of just $30,000.

Pan has already started observing the site and putting together his master plan for the wall. Pan is also helping shape the next call-for-artists round that will be released next week with a mid-April application due date. Once additional artists are selected, their artwork will start appearing on the wall as soon as possible.

Pan was chosen out of a field of 20 artists on the strengths of his vision for the project and his background doing large collaborative works as the director and co-founder the Free Sheep Foundation.  Two recent examples of D.K. and Free Sheep’s work are massive one-night performance pieces: the wake for and at the Bridge Motel in 2007 and Moore Inside-Out in 2009.  In the immortal words of The Stranger’s Brendan Kiley, “Free Sheep roots out forgotten places, their histories and memories, and distills them into potent, one-shot events that leave indelible burns on the city’s collective memory. Free Sheep happenings are mayflies on fire.”

Pan takes this passion for the history of a place into his vision for the Capitol Hill Construction Wall Project, “The City: a moveable future.”  In his own words:

[T]he starting point of genius loci, or “spirit of the place” seemed appropriate…More than its physical infrastructure, the city is a construct of stories, mythologies and relationships …As buildings come down and new ones rise, as sites change their use, it is vital to commemorate these happenings with a communal experience. Often change change comes so quickly, where the near past resembles so little of the present, and as a result, feelings of dislocation and disorientation are felt by the habitants of a place. Through the articulation of a timeline, a narrative, of a city, we are able to accept a future as one linked to the past, and explicitly understand the connections permeating the present. The introduction of a rail line into a neighborhood serves as a succinct allegorical example of this pathway – a moveable future.

Rapid and drastic change is certainly not a foreign experience to residents of Capitol HIll. Maybe, on top of being a great public art project, Pan’s “moveable future” can help us mourn the passing of Capitol Hill as it was and celebrate and shape what Capitol Hill will come to be.

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6 thoughts on “D.K. Pan selected as the lead artist for the light rail construction wall

  1. A most excellent selection. I am excited to see what he puts together.
    We won’t be stuck looking at artfully-arranged, metal scuptured spawning salmon representing death for life, transformation, and travel, that’s for sure.

  2. Murals? Hundreds of square feet, giant walls like an array of giant canvass waiting, waiting, to become a community treasure of stunning murals – something to make Picasso proud?

    Art balm to years of noise, dust, danger, disruption and chaos.

    Maybe too much to ask.


  3. Looks like an excellent choice. If I had my druthers the wall would include plastic or glass panels, too, so we can see the work in progress. Better yet, a viewing deck! Must we be separated from what will shape and form this community for years to come? I can find art in earthmovers and constuction workers doing their jobs.

  4. It is a tunnel boring, what you will see are giant trucks leaving the site every ten minutes for years – then a small two story building with 4 floors underground …. maybe not too exciting as construction sites go.

    I suspect they will do port holes. Deck, doubt it, to many risks.

    Paint the trucks – as in RAINBOW …. could that be art? Giant roaring dirt dumpers, an array of dazzling colors?

    You read it here.


  5. I agree! Wonderful choice. I will be walking past this multiple times a day for the duration and I will love looking at the selected work. Congrats to the lovely DK Pan and thanks to the selection committee!

  6. His work is predictable and lacking imagination. This probably the best that this town could do, or rather the best that the inbred artist establishment would allow.