Over the past year, crews have been busy at work laying track and infrastructure for the First Hill Streetcar, which will run from Pioneer Square through the Chinatown/International District and First Hill up to Capitol Hill. Large sculptural “beads” have recently been added on some of the poles that support the wires powering the streetcars, marking key stations or nodes along the line.
The beads are the work of Seattle artist Claudia Fitch, who worked with Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) staff and First Hill Streetcar project designers, including Mithun, to develop site-integrated artwork along the entire line of the streetcar, focusing primarily but not exclusively on the poles. Some of Fitch’s beads are now in place on Yesler Way and on South Jackson Street. The remaining beaded poles will be installed in Pioneer Square, the Chinatown/International District and on Broadway over the next few months.
Fitch views the continuous power wire as a thread that links many neighborhoods on the streetcar line. From there, she drew on metaphors related to sewing, needlework and beadwork. Streetcar poles will be capped with the “eye of the needle” or, to mark stations, with “beaded poles” – large-scale, abstract bead shapes that are unique to each station. To reinforce this theme, bollards that take the form of a “stitch” will be installed later this year to shield the cycle track along Broadway.
Fitch’s artwork includes public art commissions in the Northwest, including Qwest Field and in the South Lake Union neighborhood. She has also exhibited her work in museums and galleries nationally and internationally.
The project was commissioned with funds transferred to SDOT from Sound Transit.