Tag Archives: Prairie Line Trail

Walking the Walk on the Prairie Line Trail

13 Nov

On Saturday, glowering skies drenched the opening of Temporal Terminus: Marking the Line, an exhibit of temporary art installations sited along the Prairie Line Trail. The deluge did not scare off the large crowd who turned out for a guided tour of the art works starting at Tollefson Plaza, winding down to the Tacoma Art Museum and Thea Foss Waterway, continuing along the esplanade by the Museum of Glass, and back up to the University of Washington-Tacoma. Rain or no rain, it was a great opportunity to see how this half-mile, $5.83 million legacy trail – the western terminus of the Transcontinental Railroad, completed during Abraham Lincoln’s presidency – will link up Tacoma’s major cultural attractions.

The rain started on Friday as the eight teams of artists commissioned to create art for the pedestrian/bike trail project now underway began installing their works. It became an all-out battle of humans vs. nature as the weekend progressed. By the time the tour began on Saturday, well-wishers had girded themselves with umbrellas, raingear and high spirits to view the temporary installations along the trail. Here’s a glimpse of the eight new public art works on view through Nov. 26:

UW-T Campus
Title: Ghost Prairie
Artists: Thoughtbarn  (Lucy Begg & Robert Gay)

Thoughtbarn’s installation speaks to the railroad line’s namesake. Inspired by the mysterious Mima mounds in Thurston County, and the plight of the diminishing prairie, this installation introduces a piece of ‘artificial prairie’ along the rails running through the UW-T campus. It is a playful referral to both the railroad’s history and its new landscape-driven future as a bike and pedestrian path through the city. For its duration the colorful, intriguing object will catch the eye of local pedestrians and drivers. Those most curious can get up close to run their hands along the ‘grasses’, which also glow at night.


UW-T Pedestrian Bridge

Title: Envision
Artists: Jeremy Gregory, Diane Hansen, Ed Kroupa

Gigantic eyes look down on the campus from the pedestrian bridge. Are they benevolent? Visionary? Judging? That depends. The eyes are those of Abraham Lincoln, the visionary whose dream it was to complete a transcontinental rail that would meet the Pacific. Is he overlooking his accomplishment or wondering about this particular route’s demise and our crazy modern lives? Walking over the ped bridge, one experiences a different viewpoint and inspiration for the endurance of vision.


Grassy area by UW-T
Title: Manifest Destiny
Artists: Maria Meneses, Nicholas Nyland, Elise Richman

Manifest Destiny was a phrase that justified the territorial expansion of the United States as if it were a divine sanction. A series of markers reminiscent of the Northern Pacific Railroad signs act as a historical timeline of Tacoma, starting in 1870, three years before Tacoma was designated as the western terminus for the transcontinental railroad. A stepping stone begins the journey and the subsequent signs track the growing population of the city over 140 years at intervals that represent the largest jumps in population.

Dock Street Grassy Area
Title: Zero Down
Artists: Chris Jordan, Chandler O’Leary, Claudia Riedener

From a series of ‘footprints’ that occupy the grassy area, colorful shadows extend.  The images are rendered in temporary paint and continued in chalk, the forms span the grass and onto the concrete morphing into forms human and imagined.  Each brightly colored shadow represents the diversity and complexities of humans’ personalities. Seen here, a ghostly profile that will fade over time.

15th Street Overpass
Title: TACOMABALL
Artists: Kyle Dillehay, Lisa Kinoshita, Oliver Doriss

The curve of this overpass is the inspiration for TACOMABALL, a monumental, temporarily interactive pinball-style game which will come to life during the Prairie Line Trail tour. Gigantic red balls will be bowled down the curve interacting with various obstacles depicting both notorious and beloved local icons. Racing stripes and imagery reminiscent of the game will remain on the ramp (assuming nature cooperates) through the course of the exhibit making every pedestrian a player in the game.

Hood Street
Title: Rogue Rhizomes
Artists: Chris Sharp, Lance Kagey, James Sinding

This section of the Prairie Line Trail is a ragged remnant of an industrial heritage that has witnessed dynamic transformation all around, while remaining itself, virtually unchanged over the last 100 years. The fringes of this space are a competition between structured plantings and wildness trying to reinsert itself into the landscape. This installation explores the rogue elements of organic invasiveness, between city and wildness. Using brightly colored markers and a three-dimensional letterform the eye is drawn from a distance and evoke ideas of giant flora. Organic patterns around the base of each light pole emanate outwards over time making use of positive and negative space and ‘invade’ the surrounding area.

Photo: Holly Senn

Tollefson Plaza
Title: Link
Artists: Bret Lyon, Janet Marcavage, Holly Senn

Link makes visible the connection between the rail lines and highlights how the Prairie Line Trail linked Tacoma to the communities of Tenino, McIntosh, Wetico, Rainier, Yelm, Roy, Hillhurst, Lakeview, and South Tacoma. Floating yellow orbs, iconic of the yellow and black railroad signs will re-enact the stops along the line that connected with these communities.


Photo: Kristin Giordano

Under I-705
Title: Wild Wilderness
Artists:  Jennifer Adams, Kristin Giordano, Kenji Stoll

This work comments on the diminishing open spaces in our world and the impact on animal habitat.  In addition, it calls attention to the wild spaces that exist within our urban midst. Peeking from the interesting, dense vegetation near Tacoma Art Museum, a variety of animals that would be hard pressed to co-exist inhabit this newly created environment. Think: mega fauna.

“Ghost Prairie” is Coming to Town

9 Nov

Laser-cut components for "Ghost Prairie." Photo courtesy of Thoughtbarn

The design team of Lucy Begg and Robert Gay (Thoughtbarn) flew in from Austin yesterday to begin assembly of their public art installation, Ghost Prairie, on the Prairie Line Trail. Begg and Gay, with Philadelphia-based urban planner, Todd Bressi, have been charged with creating a public art plan for the highly anticipated walkway/bikeway project now underway. But this week, the artist/architects will be switching laptops for work gloves as they install a light-emitting, 25′ x 4′ sculpture at a site on the University of Washington-Tacoma (UW-T) campus.

A preliminary sketch for "Ghost Prairie." Photo courtesy of Thoughtbarn

Ghost Prairie is one of eight temporary public art projects that will be unveiled on Saturday, Nov. 12, along the half-mile landmark trail, which marks the terminus of the 19th-century Transcontinenal Railroad. The other seven projects are by Tacoma artists and participants in PA:ID (Public Art In Depth), an intensive program created by the City of Tacoma to provide selected professional artists free training and mentorship in how to apply for and advance through the process of creating public art works. Saturday’s demonstration project is “the pilot for a public art program that will enliven the new civic artery,” says Begg. “We’ve been working in tandem with urban planner Todd Bressi, who is devising the public art masterplan for the trail.” The public-art strategy is being developed with support from a planning grant from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA).

An abstract interpretation of the prairie. Photo courtesy of Thoughtbarn

Guidelines for the eight commissioned works indicate that recycled, reused or reclaimable materials be used in construction. Thoughtbarn’s installation is made from laser-cut, industrial-weight cardboard with long, feathery zip ties, and will be illuminated at night. The enigmatic design, suggesting an insect or a chiton, was inspired by a visit to the Mima Mounds Natural Preserve in Thurston County. The startling natural landscape of undulating, uniform mounds is best described as resembling an upside-down egg carton, multiplied outward, and blanketed in prairie grass.

“Several theories compete for how the mounds came to be,” says Begg. “Earthquakes, erosion, giant gophers…” She and Gay chose the title, Ghost Prairie, in “playful reference to the once-vast prairies in southern Washington that the rail-line crossed to reach Tacoma.” Of 160,000 acres originally managed by Native Americans, she says, only 3% remain today. “We were inspired by both the plight and the poetry of the prairie. Our 25′-long undulating structure will be covered with a field of zip ties, simulating a grass-like effect. The goal of it is to be a tactile, intriguing object. We want it to invite people in to touch it, but also catch eyes from afar.”

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