Two New Public Art Experiences Coming to First Hill

Lead Pencil Studio, Signpost, 2011, Spokane Falls Community College, Washington Arts Commission, Spokane, WA. Photo by Lead Pencil Studio.
Lead Pencil Studio, Signpost, 2011, Spokane Falls Community College, Washington Arts Commission, Spokane, WA. Photo by Lead Pencil Studio.

Since 1960, Swedish Medical Center has recognized the healing power of art through an ever-growing art collection, which now includes over 2,500 works. Now, as Swedish works to expand and improve its First Hill Campus in Seattle, they’re not only expanding the collection but bringing it outside hospital walls. Two artists have been selected to create public art for the First Hill Mile, a mile-long loop designed to promote walking and wellness in the First Hill neighborhood. A key component of the Mile will be a series of new “curb bulbs” or “curb extensions,” which will offer park-like experiences at the scale of a neighborhood corner and, with the help of 4Culture, will be infused with public art experiences.

Artist John Grade will create work for a curb bulb at the intersection of Seneca Street and Minor Avenue. Grade, whose work can be seen locally at the Museum of History & Industry and in the future at Sea-Tac Airport, will bring his signature style of exploring natural forces to this urban site. Much as the First Hill neighborhood itself does, Grade’s work will bring together the old and the new, offering, in his words, “an invitation to notice the natural world we sleep through.”

John Grade, Canopy Tower and detail, 2015, Austin Contemporary Museum, Austin, TX, photo by Brian Fitzsimmons.
John Grade, Canopy Tower and detail, 2015, Austin Contemporary Museum, Austin, TX, photo by Brian Fitzsimmons.

Site-specific art and architecture firm Lead Pencil Studio—whose 2011 piece Signpost, for Spokane Falls Community College, is pictured above—will create work for a site at Seneca Street and Boylston Avenue. At this intersection that is changing and developing, they plan to create work that will define its character as a gateway or threshold in the neighborhood. The studio sees an opportunity to highlight the Pacific Northwest’s propensity for dramatic light, and make a connection to the environment and humanity.

The art will be experienced by neighborhood residents, Swedish patients and visitors, and pedestrian and motor traffic traveling through the area, and could take many different shapes—works may feature gathering spaces, seating elements, plantings, and more. Both artists see this as an opportunity to extend Swedish’s mission out in the community, and to collaborate with each other and the larger team on an exciting urban walking experience. Stay tuned to see what comes to life on First Hill!