While Seattle waits to see if infamous State Route 99 tunnel borer Bertha ever reaches the Alaskan Way Viaduct, we’ll celebrate her little sister’s work next month when the University Link light rail service opens six months ahead of schedule and $150 million under budget. The rail line—an extension of the existing service from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport to Westlake Center—takes riders from downtown to Capitol Hill to the University of Washington in minutes.
The Capitol Hill station, located between Broadway Avenue and Cal Anderson Park, is as vibrant and eclectic as the neighborhood it serves. Eye-catching public art decorates the venue, which uses a symbol of the LGBT pride flag as its identification icon (a symbol chosen by neighborhood residents). Cartoonist Ellen Forney—a Capitol Hill resident—created two giant murals for the space. Instead of busy comics, Forney decided to paint images of hands that were simple yet striking for hurried commuters.
Artist Mike Ross’ “Jet Kiss” at the Capitol Hill light rail station; Photo Courtesy of Sound Transit
“It had to be something that can be taken in pretty quickly, and will also be interesting if someone has a longer time to stand there and be in that space,” she says. “Walking Fingers,” which she calls “playful and social,” depicts two fingers “walking” and pointing to the station’s stairs. The second mural, “Crossed Pinkies,” has been interpreted as a pinky-swear or people coming together, according to Forney. “I’m happy a lot of people have different associations with it,” she says. “[It’s about] coming together in a really thoughtful way. Compared to shaking hands, it takes more thoughtfulness and time to link pinkies.” Forney says she also wanted the mural to reflect another of the station’s striking works: Brooklyn-based artist Mike Ross’ “Jet Kiss,” an installation of two former Navy fighter jets meeting at a middle point.
To create the murals, Forney produced the images on paper using ink and brush; the works were then vectorized digitally to retain their brushstrokes. The artwork was then enlarged and placed on porcelain-enameled steel panels. The works mark Forney’s first permanent public art project and are her largest pieces to date. “The scale is an aspect of its expressive impact,” she says. Almost nine years after Sound Transit selected her, Forney is excited for people to finally interact with the art—and there will be plenty of opportunities: By 2030, Sound Transit expects 14,000 riders to board the underground Capitol Hill station each day. “It’s been an amazing feeling to get this art into the public, because that’s what it’s for.”