Vaughn Bell Selected for Rain Gardens x Public Art Opportunity

Vaughn Bell in collaboration with botanist Pati Vitt, Local Homes, 2018.

As development continues throughout King County, more and more of our surfaces are impervious. When rain hits pavement and asphalt, it collects pollutants as it travels into Puget Sound’s streams, lakes, rivers, and bays—this is stormwater.

In order to address stormwater issues, King County’s Water and Land Resource Division Stormwater Services Section (the Section) is developing a program to incentivize green stormwater infrastructure (GSI) on private properties in unincorporated King County. It partnership with the Section, we put out a call for an artist to reimagine rain gardens and help get the public engaged with them. Now, we are excited to announce that Vaughn Bell was selected for this unique opportunity.

Vaughn brings experience working with people across disciplines—engineers, community members, young people, scientists, artists, and many others. Her experience working with Seattle Public Utilities Drainage and Wastewater since 2016 as Artist in Residence has united her interests in environmental policy and public art.

She is especially interested in how rain garden design could reveal the function of GSI, and serve as a lens for people to experience more directly the flow of water through their environments and art’s potential to make connections to everyday life. Vaughn believes the design, construction and maintenance of rain gardens can be a way for people to create more intimate relationships with their local ecology.

Vaughn Bell, Welcome Home, 2014.



In addition to an interest and experience with stormwater infrastructure, she will bring her fascination with plants to this project. Her experience working with plants in an art context, and collaborating with landscape architects, botanists, and horticulturalists, has given her a sensitivity to both the creative possibilities in planting and the issues at stake such as selecting plants that will thrive and considering maintenance, growth and change.

Over the next couple months, Vaughn will work closely with 4Culture and the Section to understand the art and science of stormwater management and the GSI Incentive program goals. By participating in site visits she will experience different rain garden design strategies to inform methods of creatively capturing and filtering stormwater runoff across a variety of landscapes in unincorporated King County. She will be involved with projects in two locations: King County-owned land and at the Vashon Island. Vaughn will work with the Section to select the King County-owned site location; WLRD staff will provide support, stormwater engineers will offer technical advice in properly sizing and locating the rain garden, and plant experts will review and provide feedback as the she develops a planting plan. She will create permanent art at this location.

The second site is the Vashon Market IGA parking lot, which is the first GSI incentive pilot project and consists of several connected and engineered rain gardens. For this site Vaughn will create a planting design highlighting plant groupings and formulate rain garden typologies, which will aid in creation of the palette of planting options.

Stay tuned, as we will provide updates as Vaughn starts exploring rain gardens this spring!