On Wednesday, December 16, 2015, a new work of art will be unveiled at Yesler Terrace in Seattle as a symbol of the rich multicultural past and future of the Yesler community.
Seattle Housing Authority (SHA) commissioned Seattle artist Yegizaw “Yeggy” Michael to create the first public work of art to be installed as part of the redevelopment of Yesler Terrace into a vibrant new mixed-income urban community. Michael, originally from Eritrea, has exhibited, installed public art and won prestigious awards in Africa, Europe, and the United States. His work for SHA, which is titled “Harmony,” will be located at the northeast corner of the intersection of Yesler Way and Boren Avenue, the southern edge of Kebero Court, SHA’s first new residential building to open as part of the redevelopment. The colorful, seven-foot tile mosaic will be visible from multiple directions.
Inspired by conversations with Kebero Court and other Yesler residents, Michael designed “Harmony” to include cultural symbols from around the world. The base of the piece is fashioned from a tree trunk that was saved in the clearing of land at Yesler to make way for construction of new homes. Michael sees his work as translating Yesler’s cultural diversity into three dimensions and capturing a period of significant social and physical change for the community.
“Sharing my work with this space of community infrastructure is a synthesis of a long-term relationship, and embedded in it will be this very moment in history that prolongs its memory in our minds,” said Michael.
Michael’s work of art is part of a larger effort by SHA to bring art and artists to the community. In order to do this SHA has been partnering with other local institutions as well as applying for grants.
In July of this year, SHA received a three-year grant from the Kresge Foundation to incorporate art into the redevelopment of Yesler Terrace, which SHA initially developed in the early 1940s as the city’s first publicly subsidized housing. As it became evident in recent years that the aging housing units needed to be replaced, SHA began a conversation with the Yesler and wider Seattle communities about a vision that would provide existing residents with brand new homes, expand affordable and market-rate housing, create new parks and open spaces, and increase transportation options and economic opportunity.
The Kresge grant enables SHA to commission artists like Michael to infuse the new community with works of art, participate along with community and planning teams on the design of public spaces, support collaborative artistic projects and programs, and work with artisans living in the Yesler community to enhance their skills and find opportunities to display and sell their art.
SHA invites the public to join Michael and the Yesler community in celebrating the unveiling of “Harmony” at 10 a.m., December 16 at the northeast corner of Yesler Way and Boren Avenue in Seattle. Following a brief ceremony at that location, guests are invited to the adjacent Kebero Court Community Room, 1105 E Fir Street, for conversation with the artist.
About the Seattle Housing Authority
The mission of the Seattle Housing Authority (SHA) is to enhance the Seattle community by creating and sustaining decent, safe and affordable living environments that foster stability and self-sufficiency for people with low incomes. SHA provides long-term, low-income rental housing and rental assistance to more than 29,000 people in the City of Seattle. SHA owns and operates approximately 9,000 units at more than 400 sites throughout the city. SHA also handles more than 10,000 Housing Choice Vouchers (also known as Section 8), enabling low-income residents to receive rental assistance in the private housing market. Approximately 11,000 SHA residents are elderly or disabled and about 9,500 are children. SHA, a public corporation established in 1939, is governed by a seven-member Board of Commissioners, two of whom are SHA residents. Commissioners are appointed by the Mayor and confirmed by the City Council.