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New permanent artwork by Buster Simpson was installed on Seattle’s waterfront this summer

New artwork by Seattle artist Buster Simpson anchors the waterfront Park Promenade near the Pioneer Square Habitat Beach, just south of the Colman Dock ferry terminal. The artwork, Migration Stage, consists of two groupings of cast concrete sculptures: Anthropomorphic Dolosse and SeaBearers. Taken together, the project is a response to the Pioneer Square Habitat Beach, which was built during the reconstruction of the seawall, and to the environmental forces that affect shorelines and marine habitats. Both groupings together act as utilitarian objects and form a sculptural meditation on climate change.

“Migration Stage is a sculptural assembly intended for deployment in the future as needed to mitigate Salish Sea rise caused during the Anthropocene,” states Buster Simpson. “At the first stage location are Anthropomorphic Dolosse and SeaBearer units – public amenities and shoreline armoring that model a graceful human migration strategy . . . Dolosse have become a global iconic shoreline sentinel, indicators and bearers of coming sea rise. All sculptural units are designed to facilitate easy relocation and repurposing. The Migration Stage is set, is our carbon footprint?”

The Anthropomorphic Dolosses take their inspiration from shoreline armor that is found worldwide; these structures, typically concrete, protect against shoreline erosion. Simpson’s custom versions, that take formal inspiration from early Northwest anchors and tools, act as sentinels anticipating sea level rise. On the waterfront promenade, these sculptures serve as seating elements; the artist grouped them to encourage social interaction.

Nestled up against the planters that line the Park Promenade, the SeaBearers resemble stacks of sandbags, which are used against water infiltration in flooding conditions. Their smooth concrete pillowy forms also invite passersby to sit and take in the views of the Pioneer Square Habitat Beach and the activities on the water beyond.

These two installations are simultaneously solidly sculptural and grounded as a practical amenity; the artist describes them as “kits of parts to be used for adaptive and resilient civic infrastructure purposes.”

There are nine other permanent art commissions included in the Seattle Waterfront art program that explore both the natural environment as well as the Indigenous roots of Seattle’s shoreline. There are seven artists from local tribes involved in art projects along the Park Promenade and at the Overlook Walk. Two previously installed artworks are by Stephen Vitiello and Norie Sato.

This artwork was commissioned with Alaskan Way Seawall 1% for Art funds and was administered by the Office of Arts & Culture and the Office of the Waterfront and Civic projects.

The 1% funds are derived from city sources, Friends of Waterfront Seattle philanthropy and Waterfront Local Improvement District funds.