New ‘Union’ sculpture part of 23rd Ave improvements


Washington D.C. artist Martha Jackson Jarvis says she believes her new creation will loom large enough to still be noticed when surrounded by when the corner of 23rd and Union is surrounded by seven-story buildings.

“I am building for the future,” she told CHS as a giant crane raised her sculpture, “Union,” on the southeast corner of the intersection. “The piece is tall. I think it can stand up.”

The design concept for the sculpture

The design concept for the sculpture

Jackson Jarvis and Njena Jarvis stood at the corner Thursday to supervise the installation of the 20-foot metal sculpture above its tiled base and accompanying tiled pedestals. Jackson Jarvis said she hopes the pedestals will present an opportunity for people to hang out on the corner she called vital to the Central District’s history.

“It’s a composite of history. A layering. It isn’t one people. It isn’t one community. It isn’t one person,” she said, talking about the design and the change underway around 23 and Union.

The project is part of the public art component of the multi-year, multi-phase “23rd Ave corridor improvement” project that has both torn the neighborhood up, and, many hope, set the course for a new transit, traffic, and pedestrian friendly 23rd Ave. A person with knowledge of the process tells CHS the budget for the project was $350,000 but we haven’t confirmed that total with the Office of Arts and Culture that is overseeing the project. Funding for the project comes from Seattle Department of Transportation’s “1% for arts” budget. UPDATE: $207,500, we’re told, “including sales tax.”

A dedication ceremony is planned at the site at 6 PM Thursday night.

The block where the work is located is set to be part of the next waves of development to reshape the area around 23rd and Union. Earlier this month, CHS reported on the latest twists and turns in the court battles to delay sale and development of the Midtown Center block including agreements and payments made with homeless campers to move out of the area. A partial summary judgement granted in the case sided with family members who have sought to sell the land in a development deal with Lennar Multifamily Communities to create a 405-unit, mixed-use project with nearly 500 parking spots. Other court battles are still being wrapped up but the future of six or seven stories of mixed-use development on the block is nearing.

Even the D.C. located Jackson Jarvis said the area is changing right before her eyes. “That one right there wasn’t even here yet when I came here in 2014,” she said pointing across the street at the The Central apartment building.

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6 thoughts on “New ‘Union’ sculpture part of 23rd Ave improvements

    • Funny, I thought exactly the same thing. We have such a talented pool of local artists that it’s kind of inexcusable to look outside of the 206. It’s very anti-Cascadia.

    • As part of the road repairs the corner where the piece is located has already undergone it’s extensive renovations. Where the sculpture is located is on the public sidewalk and I’m sure that any contractors working on the property will have to take precautions (or pay the damages…) if they have to work near the art.

    • It’s located on the public right of way in the new curb bulb. Won’t be going anywhere, the artist hopes, for a long, long time.