Artists beautify new bus stations on Highway 99

  • By Theresa Goffredo Herald Writer
  • Friday, January 29, 2010 9:50am
  • LifeEverett

Nowadays, Community Transit commuters share space at the bus stop with seals, salmon, coyotes, deer and a Matisse-inspired woman with flowing hair.

These creatures are among the images created by Everett artist Cheri O’Brien.

O’Brien and three Seattle artists were commissioned by Community Transit to beautify the 24 new Swift stations built in the Snohomish County portion of the Bus Rapid Transit Corridor, which extends from Everett to Shoreline along Highway 99.

The Swift Bus is Snohomish County’s super-fast way to get from Everett to Shoreline and places in between.

But the artwork gives riders something to ponder and linger upon during their journey. The pieces are like snapshots in time, easy to read from a fast-moving bus, yet strong images that evoke emotion.

“These images were to be a beacon as much as the Swift stations are beacons in their design,” said Carol Thomas, the city of Everett’s cultural arts manager.

Everett’s Cultural Arts Commission and the Snohomish County Arts Commission chose O’Brien to do the 16 Swift stations in the Everett area.

Community Transit paid O’Brien $110,000 for her work at all 16 stations. Seattle artists Bruce and Shannon Andersen received $35,000 for five stations in Lynnwood, and Robert Horner of Seattle received $21,000 for three stations in Edmonds.

Instead of going with the flow or letting inspiration lead the way, these artists had to follow strict guidelines, as is often the case, to win the commission to produce art for a public agency.

The design had to fit into an 8-by-8-foot square. The piece had to represent movement or transportation or both, and had to fit in predetermined themes, such as birds, garden or sea life.

And the artwork would be stepped on — a lot — and had to withstand the weather, multiple power-washings and meet requirements set by the Adults with Disabilities Act.

The five Lynnwood Swift Bus stations on Highway 99 feature Bruce and Shannon Andersen’s mosaics of a compass rose design created with handmade porcelain tiles, stone and glass embedded terrazzo.

Horner created his station pieces out of marble, travertine, glass, concrete and stainless steel.

His “Advances and Recessions” pieces highlight the glacial activity that occurred during the last ice age and juxtaposes the sometimes fluid forces of nature and the human development along the Highway 99 corridor and the town center of Edmonds.

O’Brien, a professional artist for 21 years, works mostly with paint on canvas or paint on glass. Though this was her first public commission using concrete, she was up to the challenges.

During a tour of some of the 16 Swift stations, O’Brien pointed out that her series of concrete panels bore titles such as “Good Life,” “River Life” and “Wild Life.”

“River Life” sports a heron hanging out at a bend in a river. “Wild Life” displays a coyote and a deer, looking almost as if they are having a conversation.

The “Good Life” panel at the Swift station near the Snohomish County Courthouse on Pacific Avenue depicts a Snohomish River scene with a guy resting up against a tree, the Cascades in the background and a bird flying by.

“I’m mostly a narrative painter,” O’Brien said. “And I used that talent to tell a story.”

Theresa Goffredo: 425-339-3424;

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