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Bridge Artists in Residence program goes to new heights

Local artists created data visualizations while working at the Fremont and University bridges.

Artist Vivian Li in an orange dress and black shirt sits at a desk inside the Fremont Bridge with the blue-colored bridge components in the background

Vivian Li said she was compelled by the Fremont Bridge for its “magical” elements.

Photo by SEAtoday staff

It’s a rainy December day and Seattle artist Vivian Li is guiding us to her small studio inside one of the towers on the Fremont Bridge. To get here, we’ve had to pass the mechanical guts of the 117-year-old bridge that have just settled down after opening for a passing boat. It was a little freaky.

But Li didn’t seem to mind — this has been her quirky daily routine for several months. It’s all part of the deal in the SDOT Bridge Artists in Residence Program.

In this 15-year-old initiative, SDOT grants local artists $10,000 to work onsite and create special projects inspired by Seattle’s most iconic drawbridges. Past artists have created everything from graphic novels to lighting installations to musical compositions.

This time around, Li and Mariah Vicary — who is stationed at the University Bridge — created data visualizations drawn from their unique experiences.

Finding inspiration

Li, with her background as a comic artist, used the bridge to conduct hands-on research two days a week, September through December. During that time, she tallied the number of people who crossed the bridge and boats that passed below. She also asked locals to choose a mascot for the bridge — a troll, perhaps?

“I feel like there’s more culture on the Fremont Bridge than the other bridges around Seattle,” she said, noting that she received lots of waves and curious looks from pedestrians. ”People are very attached to it.”

An illustration with cars, bikes, and pedestrians in various colors all bunched together

Fremont Bridge’s data visualizations included colorful drawings of the people and vehicles that passed by.

Photo via Vivian Li

See the results

The fruits of Li’s labor is a series of whimsical illustrations + graphs. Vicary created interactive, digital representations of the local aquatic wildlife that users can explore with video game controllers to see firsthand how the bridge interacts with our environment.

You can see the both artists’ works in a free gallery show at King Street Station from Feb. 1 through Feb. 10. where they’ll be on handto answer any questions.

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