New lights shine on Everett’s art district

Picture peas in pods, or lilies of the valley, with white flowers hanging in symmetry from green stalks.

Now take a walk or drive along downtown Everett’s Hoyt Avenue. There’s a new look, inspired by the plant world. Soon, there will be more to see.

Eleven light sculptures were recently installed along Hoyt, from Wall Street to Everett Avenue. Created by Seattle artist Susan Zoccola, the light pods hang from green metal arches that canopy over the sidewalk.

Futuristic and eye-catching, the light sculptures are finishing touches on the city’s $5.2 million Hoyt Avenue streetscape project, mostly completed in 2011. Along with lighting and infrastructure for art, the project included improved pedestrian features, trees and utilities.

The lights are unique to the three-block stretch of Hoyt considered the city’s arts district.

“A lot of our key cultural institutions are already on Hoyt Avenue,” said Carol Thomas, the city’s cultural arts manager. The Everett Public Library, Imagine Children’s Museum, Schack Art Center and Artspace Everett Lofts, along with the Library Place apartment complex, are near each other on Hoyt.

Thomas said the new lights visually unify the area. “It’s fun because it’s unique and defines a special area,” she said Tuesday.

There’s more to come when the installation is complete. Just above the light sculptures, which were attached to existing street light poles, are “gobo” projectors connected to the same poles. Those devices, not yet in operation, will project images onto the sidewalk below.

In her proposal for the sculptures, the artist Zoccola wrote: “I see the gobo projections as glowing colored circles of light drawing visitors down Hoyt Avenue.”

Zoccola said projected images could be changed seasonally or for specific events. “The lit sculptures with their nighttime gobo companions would be beacons, clearly identifying the Hoyt Avenue arts district,” she wrote.

The artist has created major public works around the region. Among them are a wave wall at the Seattle Aquarium, pieces replicating water drops at the Lynnwood Recreation Center, and the soaring “Grass Blades” sculpture at Seattle Center.

Kate Reardon, the city’s spokeswoman, said that altogether the lighted sculptures cost $110,000. The $5.2 million price tag for the Hoyt renovations included design, utilities, streetscape work and inspection. All capital projects within the city include a 1 percent expenditure for the arts, Reardon said.

Thomas said the lights in Zoccola’s sculptures use energy-efficient LED bulbs.

Allan Giffen, Everett’s director of planning and community development, said the Hoyt project was born of a downtown plan approved by the City Council in 2006. In 2009, he said, the streetscape plan was adopted. “This is getting down to the costly but fun part, actually building some of these projects,” Giffen said.

He added that a four-block renovation of Rucker Avenue downtown is also part of the plan. Reardon said the design of the Rucker project was completed along with the Hoyt design. “There’s no money and no timeline, but we have the design,” Reardon said. Rucker renovations will happen when funding is available, she added. The work on Rucker will have a more traditional look than artsy Hoyt, Reardon said, and will resemble Colby Avenue’s streetscape.

Thomas said Hoyt is already becoming an Everett attraction. About 3,400 people came to the Everett Craft Beer Festival, a one-day event held last August along Hoyt between Hewitt and Pacific avenues. “We had 27 Washington state breweries, over 60 craft brews, and live music,” she said. “From the feedback of restaurants downtown, they saw a lot of people.”

That event will happen again on Aug. 17. “It brings a lot of first-time visitors to Everett, exposing what a jewel Everett is,” Thomas said.

Hoyt is a street becoming a celebration.

“It’s really our focal point for the arts,” Reardon said. “With a hub for the artists we have here, we want to build upon that in years to come, and celebrate that.”

Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; muhlstein@heraldnet.com.

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