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Art vs. transportation: Greyhound move hits an obstacle

Facing eviction next spring from its Stewart Street terminal, Greyhound has come up against an unlikely roadblock in its search for a new Seattle home. It's a standoff the city has seen before.

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Greyhound media relations manager Tim Stokes told Crosscut that “there's nothing that's been finalized” with the relocation, but he declined to react to Licata's comment or get into specifics on any aspect of the quandary.

The obvious option of finding another site for the work evaporated early on in the process.

“There's no money for that,” Zoccola said.

That leaves her installation, so to speak, up against the wall.

“I don't see any way that it [the terminal] isn't going to block the artwork,” she said. “I made it so that it could be seen from the freeway and Sound Transit trains, and by the pedestrians going to the stadiums. It's a great location for this piece of art. Greyhound is building the building four feet from the artwork. Maybe a cat could see the piece.”

In a Sept. 4 letter to Greyhound and WSDOT, Zoccola, who holds a copyright on the work, asserted “the right to prevent the intentional distortion and modification of my artwork,” given that Greyhound's design “violates my rights under the [federal] Visual Artists Rights Act.” She told Crosscut she has taken her woes to Washington Lawyers for the Arts, a volunteer group. “They're exploring the possibility that I would have some intellectual property rights for the piece, that I could probably make a stink that they'd basically be cutting off the view of the piece.”

Asked what she might do if Greyhound gets all the necessary green lights to proceed, she said, in a tone less belligerent than her words might seem, “I've been holding that card to my chest. I still have the opportunity to file my suit, and I'm not giving up on that threat. ... I don't know. Without the support of the city of Seattle I feel I don't have much strength.

“I'm not anti-Greyhound — it's just seems unfortunate that another site couldn't be found.”

Should an artist who has sold a work to the public, for installation on a transit agency's building, expect to have a say in the handling of the public need for transportation, to have the last word over what happens to a work that someone else owns? As the piece's owner, King County has taken no official position on the case. If Zoccola were to take her arguments to court, Brunner said, “I don't know where we'd come down.”

Brunner's office has inquired with colleague agencies as to any precedents for the standoff, but has learned of only one analogous case, from Vancouver, B.C. In that instance the developer paid a $500,000 mitigation to the city's public art program. The work in question stayed put, but the grant allowed for its “complete refurbishment,” according to the city's public art program manager, Bryan Newson, whose statement Brunner forwarded to Crosscut.

“The thing that makes [the Greyhound site] tricky is that we don't own the land,” Brunner said, “and it's a view impact.  ... Greyhound is not proposing to physically alter the piece of art. I think it's more about public investment, view protection, the value of the art on the site.”

Bryan Stevens, spokesman for the city's Department of Planning and Development, said that a development permit for the site could be issued as early as year's end, clearing the path for construction. WSDOT's Abernathy anticipated that Greyhound would then install a modular terminal in order to fast-track construction and thus open the facility by the April eviction deadline. That would remove any need for the company to negotiate a short-term extension on its Stewart Street lease.

“The deadline's going to be really tight,” he said.

The apparent backing of a pro-transit mayor works in Greyhound's favor, and may prove the difference between this rhubarb and the brouhaha that left the waterfront streetcar in mothballs in 2005. Public art may have to move to the back of the bus.

C.B. Hall is a freelance writer and has been following Pacific Northwest transportation issues since the 1990s. He can be reached through editor@crosscut.com.


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Comments:

Posted Tue, Dec 18, 6:31 a.m. Inappropriate

Although I generally support the arts, this seems like a no-brainer.

The artist was a bit short-sighted to assume the adjacent vacant lot would not be built upon in the near term.
To manipulate the architecture around this art-piece seems like the tail wagging the dog.

The artwork is innocuous enough, but hardly so important so as to drive development in the area.

jeffro

Posted Tue, Dec 18, 7:54 a.m. Inappropriate

Save all the lawyers fees by commissioning the artist to do a new work for the greyhound building + site. something that speaks to all the passengers and works with the building. 50K sounds about right.

chapala21

Posted Tue, Dec 18, 8:35 a.m. Inappropriate

Ms. Zoccola is just discovering what fans of Benson’s waterfront streetcar learned…”All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”

Erect it in front of the new stadium. It will receive plenty of exposure with all the congestion and gridlock anticipated with the current wrong-headed designs for handling waterfront traffic.

jmrolls

Posted Tue, Dec 18, 8:40 a.m. Inappropriate

Hey, we tear down public art all the time, and often it's not a bad thing. There was the fountain on Fifth Avenue in the parking lot of the old Municipal Building. There was the bronze fountain and red brick shelter at Westlake Square. And many more. Even Venus di Milo lost her arms.

gabowker

Posted Tue, Dec 18, 10:27 a.m. Inappropriate

Greyhound would get a lot of mileage out of hiring the artist to work on the bus station design and possibly appropriate her previous work into new configuration. Susan? You game?

And Mr. Bowker, as you say since we do apparently tear down public art all the time (count me on the end of that wrecking ball), and it's often not a bad thing, how about we start tearing down some of what architects have blessed us with? Might not be a bad thing.
Jack Mackie

jam

Posted Tue, Dec 18, 12:29 p.m. Inappropriate

Well, fortunately the Municipal Building went down with its fountain.

gabowker

Posted Tue, Dec 18, 11:08 a.m. Inappropriate

It really would not surprise me if King County's purchase agreement gave this egotistical, needy artist the right to veto any subsequent construction around it.

Ask 99 out of 100 people what it is, and they will tell you it's a "decoration." Or I should say, 99 out of 100 people who even *notice* it.

This would be a perfect sketch for the new, rebooted 'Almost Live'. Unfortunately, it would be art imitating life...

orino

Posted Tue, Dec 18, 11:10 a.m. Inappropriate

The Federal Visual Artists [sic] Rights Act? You've got to be kidding. She sold the work. She was paid for it. How can anyone put an artwork on a wall in the thriving city and expect the lines of sight to it to be preserved by the customer in perpetuity?! I doubt that many of the buildings in New York that had views of the Statue of Liberty in the 1890s can still see it today - if they're still standing.

dbreneman

Posted Tue, Dec 18, 2:24 p.m. Inappropriate

The artwork in question, a collection of red orbs and swooping arcs, a cosmological representation of the divine need to park cars ostentatiously, as if the gods themselves would park there, and by gods I mean the holier than thou monarchs of commerce and industry who've condemned humanity with a disastrous addition, one may conclude is another piece of kitzy Seattle crap slapped on the side of a toilet hole parking garage like lipstick on a pig.

Wells

Posted Tue, Dec 18, 5:41 p.m. Inappropriate

I'm in that area of downtown Seattle all the time and have never so much as noticed the art in question before.

It's one thing to support the arts. It's another to re-arrange/re-design building or other development due to the "view" of art. It's absurd.

If the artist wants to sue, let her sue; she's just wasting her money.

MLG

Posted Wed, Dec 19, 9:10 a.m. Inappropriate

I would strongly support a ban on crosscut reader responses and the destruction of current responses. It's a complete waste of time that makes our e-zines actually uglier and promotes worthless human beings like poncho who think they are god's chosen one's... the entire reader response world is a farce.

Posted Wed, Dec 19, 11:15 a.m. Inappropriate

If the Crosscut publishers want to delete these comments, that is their right. What's your point?

Of course, a Federal Commenters' Rights Act might trammel that right.

dbreneman

Posted Wed, Dec 19, 3:27 p.m. Inappropriate

swiftylazar, you want blandsville to reign? Buy a paper paper, then you don't need to read the worthless human beings.

Posted Fri, Dec 28, 12:45 p.m. Inappropriate

For gosh sakes, dbreneman and common1sense, you really, TRULY don't know what sarcasm is? Wow.

orino

Posted Wed, Dec 19, 7:06 p.m. Inappropriate

If the artist purchased or was granted a View Easement across the adjacent parcel of land, then she has a good case to take to court. But it sounds like that didn't happen. She's trying to take much of the neighboring owner's property rights and offering nothing in return. The term "self-absorbed" comes to mind.

I urge everyone to look across the street to the really classy public art on the transit yard's tall fence. Always tantalizing, to my eyes.

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