UW Today

This is an archived article.

September 24, 1997

University of Washington Tacoma building to be topped off by Seattle artist Buster Simpson

News and Information

Widely respected artist, environmental- and urban-activist Buster Simpson will install a new work of public art in time for the dedication of the University of Washington’s Tacoma campus Sept. 26.

The art is located at the center of the new campus, at the intersection of 19th St. and Pacific Ave., directly across from the newly-opened Washington State History Museum and down the street from the U.S. Federal Courthouse in the old Union Station Building.

Simpson’s project is two-part: a massive pair of signs creating the parapet (roofline) of the Woodruff-Pratt Building, and a series of sidewalk plaques working in concert with the parapet. The Woodruff-Pratt Building, one of UWT’s academic buildings, was built as a warehouse and served that purpose for many years. The services provided by the warehouse company were prominently painted on almost every available surface of the building, including Simpson’s parapet site. The largest of those signs read STORAGE.

Simpson’s project pays homage to the history of the building and the campus’ warehouse neighborhood by re-applying a series of words to the parapet, albeit words more appropriate to the contemporary uses of the old warehouse. The words will be painted in a variety of colors and reflective paints on a corrugated surface, a surface that seemingly changes as one passes alongside the building. A pedestrian walking downhill along 19th Street will first read the word IDEA (and WISDOM when the light is just right), then GATHER, then (after crossing Pacific) LABOR. A pedestrian walking towards downtown along Pacific Avenue would first see the letters UWT, then the word STORAGE (in front of the History Museum) and finally TACOMA. At the optimum viewing points for the words IDEA/WISDOM, GATHER, STORAGE and LABOR, Simpson will install either cast iron or bronze plaques elaborating on the parapet words and tying them to the contemporary use of this part of Tacoma.

Simpson’s project was commissioned by the Washington State Arts Commission’s Art in Public Places Program in collaboration with the University of Washington. Simpson’s initial involvement with the design of the university’s campus plan was sponsored in part by a grant from the Tacoma Arts Commission. The total cost of the project is $130,400.

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For more information, contact: Kurt Kiefer, UW Campus Art Program, (206) 616-6743, email: kiefer@u.washington.edu, or Beverly Watt, Washington State Arts Commission Art in Public Places Program, (360) 753-5894. <!—at end of each paragraph insert

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