More than five years after the demolitions that kicked off the massive project, the Capitol Hill Sound Transit light rail station is entering its final months of construction. As the station rises between John and Denny on Broadway, the various murals and art installations that have decorated the exterior of the surrounding plywood “Red Wall” are slowly coming down piece by piece.
CHS has reported on the anticipated ahead-of-schedule start of service for the U-Link extension connecting downtown to UW via Capitol Hill by early 2016. As for the red wall, a Sound Transit spokesperson indicated that all of the paneling will be gone by spring of next year, “contingent and subject to change based on contractor schedules.” It’s part of a slow transformation from the long period of construction that has dominated this stretch of Broadway. Earlier this summer, the giant construction crane that had towered over the site finally came down after three and a half years of hard work.
Some of the wall paneling, too, has already come down, with work on the pedestrian concourse shifting into its “eastern” side of Broadway phase last Monday resulting in the removal of portions of the south western wall lining the east side of Broadway and the bottle cap Slats exhibition.
So what of the murals and other works that have become customary backdrops and features of central Capitol Hill? They are all coming down, eventually, some sooner than others, and most are being returned to their original creators. A Sound Transit tweet confirmed the retention ownership of works by artists.
Some works are too ingrained in the red wall to be simply unhooked and taken back to the studio. The 24-foot by 120-foot self-portrait-with-owls mural that has dominated most of the East John street stretch of the red wall since 2010 — designed by local street artist Baso Fibonacci and painted by Zach Rochstad and Japhy Witte — will have to come down with the removal of the wall.
“I have no idea what I would do with 100 pieces of plywood,” said Fibonacci after CHS asked him what he was going to do with his work. According to the artist, the paneling wasn’t primed before the mural was painted and is “falling apart.” He did say that he will try and snag a few panels for himself before they disappear from the premises.
Around the corner from Fibonacci’s mural is Tory Franklin’s Fe Fi Fo Fum, a mural featuring a human scale digital print figure Jack scaling a painted tall and winding beanstalk. The creating artist said that she’ll be taking the printout of Jack back to her studio, though the tree will be history, seeing as it is also painted directly onto the paneling. Franklin said that Jack will be stored with other puppets for potential use in future installations.
The wall has seen a variety of works that have been cycled in and out, in addition permanent murals, all overseen by curator and lead artist D.K. Pan. Featured works have ranged from Tess Martin’s The Whale Story, a true tale of a fisherman’s connection with a passing whale retold via stop motion and mural painting, to Gretchen Bennett’s Crazy in Love, 10 hand rendered penciled video stills from both the Beyonce and Antony and the Johnsons version.
The project was funded and organized by STart, Sound Transit’s permanent (and temporary) art installation program that commissions a wide variety of nationally renowned and emerging public artists to feature their work at ST stations and construction sites.