ArtSEA: All aboard for art at Sound Transit’s new East Link

Plus, Seattle Independent Bookstore Day, a party for Octavia Butler and upcoming readings about town.

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“Dragon and Phoenix,” by Seattle artist Louie Gong, located above the light rail tracks at the new Spring District station. (Sound Transit)

When Sound Transit unveils the newest link in the light-rail system this weekend (April 27, 11 a.m. - 4 p.m.), the Eastside station celebrations will include live music, food trucks, a “Baby Sasquatch on the loose” and a communal mural painting — in addition to a new way to get from Redmond to Bellevue and back.

And thanks to the STart Program (which designates 1% of construction budgets for art), riders will also discover a new crop of public art installations along this 6.6-mile, eight-station segment. Some of these works have been waiting a while for their big debut. Due to various construction delays, several of the art installations have proved faster to complete than the rail itself.

In early 2023, I wrote about two artworks (a Jimi Hendrix mural by Hank Willis Thomas and cut-metal nature scenes by Barbara Earl Thomas) already in place at the Judkins Park Station — a crucial point in the Lake Washington crossing, delayed and now slated to open in 2025. When I drive by the empty station entrance these days, I feel like Jimi’s eyes have glazed over with the wait.

But the artworks along the new East Link are officially open and, if legend holds true, should be easier to spot than a baby Sasquatch.

You may have already seen “Verdant” by Seattle artist Leo Saul Berk, which opened earlier this year. The installation of hand-painted louvers douses the Overlake Village Pedestrian Bridge in a bright-green forest path — images that shift and gather as you move through it.

“Verdant,” by Seattle artist Leo Saul Berk, at the Overlook Village station. (Sound Transit)

At the South Bellevue station, look for local artist Katy Stone’s “Slough Wave” spanning the facade of the parking garage. Inspired by the Mercer Slough, these abstract patterns evoke grasses swishing and light dappling through leaves.

The play of light is a key element in several of the installations (a subconscious nod to light rail?).

At the Bellevue Downtown stop, longtime local glass artist Paul Marioni created “woven” etched glass panels through which sunlight filters, as well as a splattered glass homage to our weather in “Light Rain.” See also “Moving,” his sparkling mosaic of reflective tiles.

You’ll find more light reflected in Phillip K. Smith’s “Four Corners Extruded.” The Coachella Valley artist is known for placing reflective and LED-lit boxes in unexpected locations — in this case, it’s a 40-foot-tall, mirrored, x-shaped pole at the Wilburton station. The piece will change according to shifts in the weather, the traffic and the seasons, and take on different color patterns at night.

“Four Corners Extruded,” a reflective light installation by Phillip K. Smith, stands in front of the Wilburton station. (Kurt Kiefer)

Eighth Generation founder Louie Gong celebrates mixed heritage (he is Nooksack and Chinese) with his “Dragon and Phoenix” cut-metal murals at the Spring District stop. A blend of Coast Salish and Chinese art traditions, these curving creatures of legend are joined by one that’s only slightly more domesticated: a housecat.

And at the Redmond Technology station (the end of the line, until Downtown Redmond opens in 2025), look for “Move Your Boulder,” a hefty rock piece by Seattle wood sculptor Dan Webb. Crosscut profiled Webb and this endeavor — his first foray into stone carving — when he was finishing it back in February 2020.

On each of the three boulders (two weighing in at 12 tons and one a mere three tons) is carved a giant hand, suggesting the daily struggles each of us contends with — and, given the context, perhaps those faced by a massive transit project too.

L-R: Terrance Hayes, Gabrielle Zevin and Octavia Butler. (Seattle Arts and Lectures; Seattle Public Library)

If you aren’t riding the new light rail back and forth on Saturday, consider creating your own transit route to a few favorite bookstores.

Seattle Independent Bookstore Day (April 27) returns for its 10th anniversary with 28 participating Puget Sound bookstores, from Edmonds to Burien, Poulsbo to Redmond. Getting your event “passport” stamped at all 28 by May 6 earns you discounts and major book-nerd bragging rights.

It’s a great reason to support local book shops — in our UNESCO City of Literature — which have survived against all kinds of odds.

Most participating stores have treats planned for the occasion, from literary tote bags and fancy pencils at Paper Boat Booksellers in West Seattle to a special showing of first-edition Ernest Hemingway novels (previously owned by his first wife Hadley Richardson) displayed beneath the beautifully arched ceiling at Arundel Books in Pioneer Square. 

While we have books on the brain, consider a few upcoming literary events of note:

Tonight! Novelist Gabrielle Zevin will speak as part of Seattle Arts and Lectures (April 25, 7:30 p.m. at Town Hall Seattle; live streaming tickets also available). I never thought I’d be emotionally invested in a novel about video-game creators, but boy was I wrong. Her 2022 book Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow totally hooked me with its evocative exploration of different ways and motivations for artmaking.

Also coming up at Seattle Arts and Lectures is Terrance Hayes. If you’ve heard this stellar poet read his work aloud before, you know: This appearance is not to be missed (Rainier Arts Center, May 2 at 7:30 p.m.; live streaming tickets also available). His latest collection So to Speak reflects his signature mix of pop-culture references (from Bob Ross to Lil Wayne), allegory, strict poetic forms and historical truth telling.

Finally: This year’s “Seattle Reads” selection is Octavia Butler’s uncannily prescient novel Parable of the Sower (published in 1993 and partially set in 2024). Within this dystopian tale, the “grand dame of science fiction” and MacArthur genius predicted many current social issues regarding climate change, civil unrest, distrust of police and space travel.

The book marks the first time Seattle Reads has selected a work of science fiction for the city to read “together,” and only the second time a local author has been chosen. (Butler spent her final seven years living in Lake Forest Park.)

Seattle Public Library has lots of related events planned, leading up to what would’ve been Butler’s 77th birthday on June 22. That includes the launch party and panel discussion of the book (Downtown Library, May 1 at 6 p.m.; free registration required).

Speaking of Black arts legacies... Have you signed up for the Black Arts Legacies newsletter yet? Season 3 is in full swing, with our first artist profile — Gwendolyn Knight Lawrence — launched earlier this week. Discover a new artist “reveal” each week through June via the newsletter and on

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