Archive | 1:08 pm

Art and History Connect on the Prairie Line Trail

2 Jun

Walk on the wild side (l to r): Todd Bressi, Lucy Begg, artist Elizabeth Conner and Robert Gay get the back story on Tacoma rail from historian Michael Sullivan.

Urban planner Todd Bressi and the design team of Lucy Begg and Robert Gay (Thoughtbarn) held a lively series of speaking engagements in Tacoma last week, on the public art plan for the much-vaunted Prairie Line Trail (PLT). The trio met with staff from the City, University of Washington-Tacoma and Tacoma Art Museum; historic preservationists, downtown stakeholders, artists, cycling advocates and interested citizens about the trail’s potential to become a showcase for art and art experiences, as well as a magnet for civic activity. The design team was awarded a $30,000 commission, supported by a National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) planning grant, to develop an art proposal for the legacy trail which will link downtown Tacoma’s most significant cultural and historical sectors.

Unbeknownst to most Tacomans, the Prairie Line Trail is an extraordinary landmark of Tacoma history. In 1873, the Northern Pacific Railroad designated the now-overgrown, half-mile, two-acre corridor as the western terminus for its transcontinental railroad, beating out competitors Seattle, Olympia and Bellingham. Modern city-building and telegraph communications followed the railroad, and from here sprung the town’s moniker, “The City of Destiny.” The proposed $5.83 million walking, biking and interpretive trail follows the historic rail corridor linking the University of Washington-Tacoma campus, the Brewery District, the Museum District and Thea Foss Waterway, and eventually connects with the Water Ditch Trail. Users will be within walking distance of the convention center, the copper-domed Union Station, and the ethereal Museum of Glass Bridge – all destinations that radiate outward from the Tacoma Art Museum (currently awaiting a streetscaping and plaza/entrance redesign). By commissioning a public art plan, “We are developing a roadmap that’s considerate of art” and honors the city’s history, says City Art Administrator, Amy McBride. That may be an understatement: The Prairie Line Trail offers a ripping opportunity to create a history-infused active destination and outdoor art venue that is unique to Washington, and the country. The PLT will draw visitors to our historic downtown, where curated temporary and site-specific permanent art may greet trail users. Continue reading

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