4Culture Grants + Calls

Seattle Transit Tunnel: Innovative Historic Interpretation

We are seeking historians, storytellers, exhibit designers, and documentarians to research and document a significant moment in Seattle’s cultural history: an artist collaboration that resulted in the 5-station downtown transit tunnel.

Steps to Apply

1 About the Project

1 About the Project

  • Project Budget: $150,000. Budget is inclusive of fee, travel, and content creation. Washington State Sales/Use Tax may apply.
  • Eligibility: open to professional individuals and teams residing in the Pacific Northwest region: British Columbia, California, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, and Washington.
  • Application: submission of an online application is required for this opportunity.
  • Deadline: Monday, February 12, 2018 at 4:00 pm PST.

Please apply before the deadline. We are here to help with any troubleshooting: contact Brennan Jernigan at brennan.jernigan@4culture.org or 206-263-1587 if you have any questions.


4Culture and King County Metro Transit Division want to commission an innovative public experience to tell the story of community, collaboration, and public art in the Seattle Downtown Transit Tunnel. The form of interpretation can be wide-ranging and may take the form of exhibition display, publication, film or video documentary, interactive website, or any combination of these possibilities.

The $150,000 budget established by 4Culture is intended to develop the interpretive content and a proposal for how the content can be shared with the public. In the case of a documentary or publication, “content” may also include actual production costs. In the case of a documentary or publication that may also include actual production costs. This historic interpretation is intended to be shared with the public. The selected individual or team will be under contract to 4Culture to oversee the content’s conceptual framework and creation. The selected individual or team will be expected to work collaboratively with 4Culture and its partner(s) to develop a proposal for display of the interpretive feature into a publicly accessible location or platform depending on the content focus and media.


“Interjecting imagination into public transportation goes beyond glitter.”
New York Times, October 4, 1990

The five-station development of the Seattle Transit Tunnel marked a significant moment in the history of public art in the region. Lead artists working closely with tunnel engineers and station designers resulted in one of the earliest and most comprehensive examples of what has come to be known as design team collaboration. Several of the lead artists including Alice Adams, Sonja Ishii, Jack Mackie, and Vicki Scuri, leveraged the tunnel experience to establish national careers as pioneers of the collaborative working style.

The tunnel is still cited as a model for successful integration of artists’ concepts and artwork into transportation infrastructure. Its innovative working methodologies, ambitious commitment to early and meaningful involvement by artists, and supportive contracting and construction procedures laid the groundwork for the current integration of art by King County Metro, Sound Transit, and Seattle Streetcar.

Cities change, and although change is inevitable, preservation and interpretation of the region’s history must co-exist with that transformation. Convention Place Station will soon become the Washington State Convention Center (WSCC) Addition. Located in Seattle’s downtown core at the intersection of several distinct, urban, and rapidly evolving neighborhoods, the Addition project will transform more than 3 city blocks into a state-of-the-art convention space and mixed-use development. The WSCC Addition will result in exhibition space, meeting rooms, and a ballroom to augment current convention capacity. The design prioritizes connection with the surrounding neighborhoods, open and engaging public spaces, and a unique experience that embodies Seattle’s special qualities.

Unfortunately, most of the highly integrated existing artwork at Convention Place Station will be demolished with the site renovation. As part of the de-accession process, 4Culture and WSCC agreed to preserve the history of the site and the artwork and that is the impetus for issuing this commission opportunity and reflecting on this aspect of Seattle’s unique cultural community. Even though actual preservation of the artwork is not possible, the work and the forward thinking collaborations that made it extraordinary can be experienced through this creative interpretation opportunity.

At this time of remarkable, cumulative change in Seattle’s built environment, it’s more important than ever to thoughtfully consider past achievements and to share the stories of those achievements. The public artwork in the Transit Tunnel is more than mere decoration. The art anchors the transit system—a series of five stations and five distinct and evolving neighborhoods—to the history and people of this place. The stations tell a story for this generation, and for generations to come.

Research the Client

Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel
Puget Sound Transportation Projects
Transit Tunnel Map
Convention Place Station Map

2 Timeline

2 Timeline

Timeline for Selection

Application deadline: Monday, February 12, 2018, 4:00 pm PST
Panel to select finalists: Friday, February 23, 2018
Finalist notification: Monday, February 26, 2018
Finalist orientation: Thursday, March 8, 2018*
Finalist interviews: Friday, March 9, 2018*

*You should be available in this timeframe in order to participate in an orientation and interview if selected as a finalist. Out-of-town finalists will be reimbursed for travel and lodging expenses to attend the interview and orientation in Seattle, Washington. If applying as a team, the allowance for travel may not fully reimburse all team members.

The panel reserves the right to make no selection from the submitted applications and to adjust the selection timeline.

Timeline for Project

Contract issued: April 1, 2018
Content conceptual development: April–September 2018
Content design development: November 2018–December 2019

3 Are You Eligible?

3 Are You Eligible?


This project is open to professional individuals and teams residing in the Pacific Northwest region: British Columbia, California, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, and Washington.

Selection Criteria

Finalists will be selected on the basis of the following criteria:

  • The quality and strength of your past work as demonstrated in your submitted application materials.
  • Your interest and specialized experience in research and documentation of historical data in a variety of media.
  • Your demonstrated ability to translate historical research into compelling, publicly-oriented experience.
  • A high level of critical thinking and conceptual ability.
  • Your demonstrated ability to communicate effectively and work collaboratively.

Selection Process

A five-person selection panel will review the applications, select finalists for orientation and interviews, and recommend one finalist or finalist team for the commission. The panelists reflect a broad range of the field: exhibit designers (especially those with history or heritage exhibition design expertise), heritage specialists, historians, and artists. Panel members have been selected for their understanding of the link between place-making, preservation, urbanism, and public art.

4 How to Apply

4 How to Apply

We encourage you to start your application early. We are here to help with any troubleshooting. Please contact Brennan Jernigan at 206-263-1587 or brennan.jernigan@4culture.org.

You must submit the following materials via online application:


Artist contact information.


Two-page (maximum) current professional résumé. Teams should include two-page resumes for all members as one document. Keep the formatting as simple as possible. Only PDF files will be accepted.

Statement of Interest

Write a statement (500 words or less) explaining why you are interested in working on this project and how you would approach this commission opportunity considering your past work. If there are multiple collaborators as part of your team, please explain how you work together. Consider the selection criteria as it relates to this opportunity. Applicants are NOT asked to submit a proposal as part of the application.

Supplemental Writing Sample (Optional)

You may submit an optional PDF document of written material that illustrates your qualifications for this opportunity. All written material should be combined into a single PDF, no more than 2 MB in size and no more than 2,000 words of total content, and uploaded as a Supplemental Document in the application. This document may include selections from exhibition briefs, project narratives, or other documents that show how you organize the impacts, outcomes, and content of an exhibition or project, or it may include samples of interpretive copy that show your writing style (such as label copy, video scripts, etc.). There is no penalty for not submitting a writing sample. Only submit one if it strengthens the case for your selection for this opportunity.

Work Samples

Each individual or team may have different work sample configurations depending on past work and discipline. Applicants must adhere to the format restrictions listed below. You are encouraged to submit work samples that best illustrate your qualifications for this opportunity. If you have questions about how to prepare the strongest application, please contact us.

You must submit between 6 and 12 total work samples to be eligible for consideration. You may submit all work samples as digital images, or you may choose to submit up to 6 work samples as audio/video files, web-based projects, or publications—or any combination of these.

You must upload work samples according to the instructions below:

  • Digital Images: Images must be uploaded as JPG files only. Images must be 1920 pixels on the longest side, at least 72 dpi, and less than 2MB in size. Once uploaded, the system will automatically label the files with your last name, first initial, and a number indicating viewing order.
  • Audio/Video Files: Audio samples must be submitted via SoundCloud, with the specific URL (e.g. soundcloud.com/29523) noted on the Work Sample Upload page. Video samples must be submitted via Vimeo or YouTube, with the specific URL (e.g. vimeo.com/2992575) noted on the Work Sample Upload page. All submissions must be publicly accessible (password protected files will not be accepted). Timed excerpts are preferred, but longer samples may be submitted with notation in the description field of specific start and stop time for a cumulative run time of up to 5 minutes. Please include the start and stop times for excerpted audio/video samples at the beginning of the descriptive text.
  • Web-Based Projects: Web-based project samples must be submitted by selecting “Video” as the Work Sample Type in the Work Sample Upload page, pasting the project’s URL in the in the “URL” field, and typing “Web Sample” in the “Duration” field. This is only to be used for web-based projects and NOT for web portfolios or other sites that document your work. If there are specific instructions regarding what to see in your web sample, please note that in the description field.
  • Publications: Publication samples must be submitted by selecting “Video” as the Work Sample type in the Work Sample Upload page, pasting a link to a PDF of the publication in the “URL” field (uploaded and shared from either Google Drive or Dropbox), and typing “Publication” in the Duration field. For longer publications, please indicate a select number pages you would like the panel to review in the descriptive text for the work sample.

Note: submissions in excess of 12 work samples will not be reviewed. Audio or video samples in excess of 5 cumulative minutes will not be reviewed.

In the Work Sample Upload page, the title of the artwork/project name, completion date, medium and dimensions are required fields. Please provide a brief description of 75 words or less for each work sample. Completion of optional fields for project location, commissioning agency, budget, project partners, photo credit, and copyright owner is encouraged.

After your first entry, text fields will automatically populate with information from the previous work sample upload. This is meant to help expedite the inclusion of multiple samples per artwork and can be easily changed by highlighting and typing over the text for a new work sample. All images and descriptive text can be reviewed, edited, or deleted by clicking on the file name in the left-hand progress navigation.

5 Help

5 Help


Learn more about the history of the Seattle Transit Tunnel and artist design team integration, as well what will make a successful application. For those not in the Seattle area, a call-in option will be available. Please RSVP and let us know that you will be calling in and we will follow up with instructions. If this workshop time does not work for your schedule, don’t worry! We will document the discussion and can share the notes upon request.

Jan 26
101 Prefontaine Pl S, Seattle, WA 98104


If you have questions or concerns, please contact:

For project-related questions:
Cath Brunner

For online application questions:
Brennan Jernigan

Download a PDF of this call.