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A Surprise Awaits You!


Trees/shadows by Vaughn Bell.

A gray concrete support wall becomes a canvas for artwork.

If you walk or bike the Burke Gilman Trail near the University Village you’ll be treated to a surprise that’s awaiting you as you pass under the NE 45th Street Viaduct Bridge.   No, it’s not another troll, it’s an elegant design that “softens” the bridge’s supporting concrete wall with a pattern that mimics the silhouettes of the surrounding trees.  The simple beauty of the design suggests continuity between the built environment and the surrounding natural environment.

This past summer, the viaduct bridge was torn down and rebuilt in record time in order to keep traffic moving along the very busy NE 45th Street corridor that runs east/west on the north side of the University of Washington. Because the rehabilitation project did not have “1 % for Art” funds and because it was on a fast-track for completion, SDOT’s own Staff Artist, Vaughn Bell, worked with the construction project manager and consultant to develop the custom concrete surface design.  Bell’s vision took shape following the re-opening of the viaduct to traffic.
As the staff artist hired by SDOT to implement the SDOT Art Plan, Bell works to incorporate a variety of art and enhancement projects in the right-of-way as an art planner and designer for projects of all scales, from incorporating art into sidewalk repairs, to design consultation on large capital projects, to planning, scoping and defining 1% for art-funded public art projects.  She is working with the Office of Arts and Cultural Affairs staff to facilitate public  art on many projects such as the Spokane St. Viaduct, Mercer Corridor and Chief Sealth Trail.

In addition to her role with the department, she is an accomplished artist of public artworks, interactive projects and immersive environments that reflect on the paradoxes and possibilities of people’s relationships to the environment.  She has exhibited her sculpture, installation, performance, video and public projects internationally. Recently Vaughn has created commissions for the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art and for the Edith Russ Site for New Media Art in Oldenburg, Germany. Her work has been featured in Artnews, Afterimage, and Arcade Journal, among others.

Why not take your own personal art walk and stroll along the Burke Gilman Trail under the NE 45th Street Viaduct bridge.  For more information about the SDOT Art Plan, please visit our website . More information on the city’s Public Art Program can be found here.