Claudia Riedener grew up in Switzerland on a small vegetable and dairy farm with a fruit orchard. In 1992 she moved to Chicago, where she received her degree and worked at the Chicago Botanic Garden. After relocating to Tacoma in 1999, she worked in horticulture for a few years before making a career shift to tile artisan in 2002.
Claudia creates ceramic murals, a type of touchable art that absorbs the surrounding elements, such as heat. To her, “murals are a translation of what I learn of a community and they endeavor to introduce the story to the passersby.”
In June, Claudia was selected, through a competitive process, to create a public art piece for Sound Transit’s Art Program (STart) for the 66th Street Underpass. Her goal is to create an mural that depicts past stories of the community while simultaneously transporting them to create new experiences.
The Site: 66th Street Underpass
Sound Transit is expanding its Sounder commuter rail service to South Tacoma and Lakewood. When Sounder service is fully operational to the South Tacoma Station, 18 trains will arrive and depart from the station each day.
Only six blocks from the new station is the 66th Street Underpass, which creates a natural gateway between the Manitou, Edison, and Arlington neighborhoods and the South Tacoma Way business community to the east. The elevated train trestle has, for decades, served as a tagging ground for surrounding youth and even a site to memorialize area residents.
With the work being done to prepare rail service from South Tacoma to Lakewood, Sound Transit is upgrading the rail infrastructure, including this underpass area. Their intention is to make the underpass a welcoming portal to the Manitou community, which is experiencing rejuvenation with the new Boys and Girls Club and Metro Parks’ STAR Community Center.
Refurbishing the underpass will consist of removing the lead paint, repairing cracks and concrete spalling, and repainting. After these initial changes are complete, Claudia will create an artwork that will give the underpass a renewed sense of welcome while still maintaining the character of the community that consider 66th Street an important landmark in their lives.
Q & A with Claudia Riedener
What are some of your previous projects that you have been most proud of and why?
I really enjoyed working on the wall mural for the South Tacoma Public Library [project funded through the Tacoma Arts Commission’s Tacoma Artists Initiative Program]. The library board and David Domkoski were a pleasure to work with and the community has welcomed the addition of my work titled ‘Elk Trap’ (picture below).
The Zina Peace Park at McCarver has been an amazing experience as well. The students, teachers, Metro Parks Foundation and the neighbors all got involved and created a peaceful, playful and inviting park with much art and great play area and vegetable gardens for both the students and the neighbors. I visit this park often and I like how well it is loved and utilized by the community.
What was your initial reaction when you were selected for the 66th Street Underpass project, and what is your reaction to the site you will be working on?
Of course I am super elated to be given this opportunity to work with the South Tacoma community again. The entire area has seen such renewal and revitalization; yet the history of the place is still palpable all around. My reaction to the Manitou Trestle involves the underpass being a portal, a way thru to get to the other side, the other place and the return back. The underpass is the perfect canvas. But it also is dauntingly large in area.
Do you have any preliminary thoughts about what you will make in the space and how you will incorporate community identity within the space?
Before laying out my ideas I want to get community input, meet with the neighborhood council and the business district and do more research. I certainly want to involve applied architectural ceramics; perhaps in combination with other surface techniques.
Stay Tuned for updates on Claudia’s project! We’ll be keeping track of other PA:ID artists throughout the year as well.