Best of the Month | Celebrating the color and joy local artists bring to Seattle

Gary Payton mural on a signal box. Photo and artist credit: Desmond Hansen

Summary: 

  • Crews installed a colorful crosswalk in South Park as part of the 8th Ave S Sidewalk Improvements project
  • On a tour of the West Seattle Bridge, Duwamish River Artist Residency learned about the bridge’s history and got to see the city from a new angle. 
  • We sat down with Desmond Hansen, who creates amazing murals on SDOT’s signal boxes around town. 

Earlier this month, we installed a decorative crosswalk on the north side of the 8th Ave S and S Cloverdale St intersection. 

The crosswalk art is part of our 8th Ave S Sidewalk Improvements project, which added new sidewalks and street art in the South Park neighborhood, funded through the Levy to Move Seattle. We worked with the community in the South Park Home Zone to prioritize improvements that calm traffic and make it easier and safer for people to get around by foot and wheelchair. The Home Zone is part of our effort to help reduce the impacts of the West Seattle Bridge closures on those communities most directly affected by detour traffic. 

This new crosswalk is one of Seattle’s many community crosswalks, which showcase neighborhoods’ unique culture and history, liven up intersections with art and color, and make it safer to cross the street. This particular decorative crosswalk is inspired by a popular Mexican decorative art form, papel picado. Papel picado can be translated into English as “perforated paper” and is used for many occasions including the birth of a child, holidays, birthdays, weddings, deaths, and more. 

“Having Mexican parents, it’s been a work of passion and an honor to design this crosswalk—and the one across the street—to represent my Mexican heritage and culture.”

-Dahvee Enciso, Senior Civil Engineer Specialist 

The design features images of colorful paper flags, each symbolizing something meaningful like fulfillment, joy, remembering our departed loved ones, love, peace, and faith – all of which are central to Mexican culture. Read more about the history and art of papel picado here

Last week, the Duwamish River Artist Residency spent time on the West Seattle Bridge to draw, photograph, and see the city from a different perspective. 

The Duwamish River Artist Residency participants on top of the West Seattle Bridge on August 24.
The Duwamish River Artist Residency participants on top of the West Seattle Bridge on August 24. Photo: Matt Donahue  

During the Duwamish River Artist Residency, 14 studio artists work on the shores of the Duwamish River for eight days in August to engage in place and community while interpreting the river and its surrounding environment. For ten years, the artists have been exploring and documenting the Duwamish River, the industry, the bridges, and all the changes that have happened. Artists have drawn, painted, and photographed the West Seattle Bridge over the years.  

Earlier this month, the SDOT Roadway Structures Division gave the artists a tour of the West Seattle Bridge, and they got the opportunity to soak in the view, draw, and take photos of the bridge and the area nearby. 

“Today, day 3, year 10 of the Duwamish River Artist Residency, we did something amazing. Seattle Department of Transportation gave us access to the West Seattle bridge and we got to see our city from a whole new perspective. We learned about the history of the bridge, we talked about the construction and the plans to reopen, but most of all I was just enthralled with the view and standing on the bridge, in the middle of the street.”

-Fiona McGuigan, Co-founder, Duwamish River Artist Residency 

“The West Seattle Bridge tour was amazing. It furthered one of the residency’s primary missions – to strengthen our connection to this place we have visited together for the past 10 years. That made the bridge tour a very meaningful experience for us.”

-Sue Danielson, Co-founder, Duwamish River Artist Residency 

Check out the Duwamish River Artist Residency on Instagram @duwamish_river_residency

Seattle-based artist Desmond Hansen is making our city more colorful, one signal box at a time!  

Signal boxes are large metal boxes that protect the traffic signal equipment inside. One of SDOT’s missions is to create vibrancy among city streets to enrich public life and spaces, and Desmond Hansen’s signal box murals do that and more! His murals are a staple of the Seattle area art scene, reflecting community life, pop culture icons, and local community members who have had a positive impact on the area.  

A map of the signal boxes Desmond Hansen has painted in Seattle
Signal boxes are located all throughout Seattle. Check out the current map of Desmond Hansen box art locations here

In addition to signal boxes, Hansen has painted many murals across the city, which you can see on his Instagram @DesmondHansenArt. Learn more about Desmond Hansen and his art in this recent SDOT Roadside Chat

Feeling inspired to share your artwork with your community? You can apply for a FREE Signal Box Artwork Permit.