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PA:ID gets displayed

Public artwork on the Prairie Line Trail and beyond

(L to R) Todd Bressi and Lucy Begg of Thoughtbarn, PA:ID instructor Elizabeth Conner, Robert Gay and Tacoma historian Michael Sullivan Photo courtesy Lisa Kinoshita

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The Tacoma arts scene is always on the move - sometimes in ways you might not expect. Currently, a program called Public Art In Depth (PA:ID) is kicking up its heels, training a fleet of new public artists. Starting this fall, the PA:ID team will showcase artwork along an under-known facet of Tacoma - the Prairie Line trail.

PA:ID - an effort created and powered by the City of Tacoma - trains selected public artists for free via workshops, trips, hands-on experiences and mentorship. Throughout 2011 and 2012, there will be several projects available exclusively to PA:ID students, including projects for Artscapes, Metro Parks and Sound Transit. PA:ID is just another step Tacoma has taken to support local artists and provide opportunities.

"What we are doing is investing in artists who have accomplished a level of success in their studio work to teach them intensively about public art - what it is, what it entails, how one has to not only be a good artist, but also think about the site, the community, get projects engineered, and get permits," says Amy McBride, Tacoma Arts Administrator.

While PA:ID is just getting warmed up, the students - all selected after an application process based on their previous work - are already learning a lot about the nature of the business of public art.

"We've created mock proposals and discussed them, shared our own work and work that inspires us, and heard from guest speakers about engineering, permitting, and applying for public art opportunities," says student Holly Senn.

Teacher and facilitator Elizabeth Conner developed the curriculum and has taught four sessions so far. "The program has reinforced my respect for artists living and working in Tacoma," she says. "The artists in this program are creative, resourceful, and respectful of each other's work. Their relationship with city staff is exceptionally collaborative, energetic and supportive."

The Prairie Line Trail will be heavily intertwined with PA:ID from the start. Prairie Line was once the terminus of the Northern Pacific Railroad, today running through the University of Washington-Tacoma campus and other areas around downtown. This stretch of land has largely been forgotten in modern times, but there's a facelift in its future - a walking and biking interpretive trail headed up by design studio Thoughtbarn, made up of Lucy Begg, Robert Gay and Todd Bressi.

"One of the initial recom-mendations of the public art plan is to activate the space with temporary use in order to start making people aware of the space and the land and the connections," says McBride. "So we are going to have a series of temporary installations along the trail."

While the students of PA:ID will create pieces for the Prairie Line Trail, Thoughtbarn will oversee the planning of the project and create a signature piece of artwork for the trail. So far exactly what Thoughtbarn will do has not been let out of the bag.

"Our demonstration project will be one of the first examples of public art along the Prairie Line. Interestingly, it will happen before design or construction of the trail actually begins," says Begg. "In this way we see it as a great opportunity to raise awareness of future plans for the railroad, as well as of its intriguing past."

Prairie Line Trail artwork is scheduled go up by Nov 12 - a date when there will be a walking tour of the trail with artists in attendance. The artwork will be up for about two to four weeks.

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