New downtown public artwork celebrates Port’s centennial

The Port of Tacoma, in partnership with the City of Tacoma, is pleased to announce the installation of a new public art piece commemorating the Port of Tacoma’s centennial, 1918-2018, at Fireman’s Park in downtown Tacoma (801 A St.).

The idea for this project grew out of the Port’s 100th Anniversary celebration in 2018, as a way for the Port to create a lasting and engaging way to connect with the Pierce County community.

“We are pleased to be able to tell the story of the Port in such a unique and creative way,” said Port of Tacoma Commission President John McCarthy. “This artwork shows how we are all connected through the Port.”

In March 2019, after identifying Fireman’s Park as a potential site, the City released a call for artists and convened a six-member selection panel to assist with artist selection and concept approval. Tacoma-based firm Rotator Creative was ultimately selected by the panel as the designer.

“The Port is a major economic engine for our region and this dynamic piece, which was designed by a local team of artists and built by local fabricators, makes that statement in a powerful way while capturing Tacoma’s natural beauty,” said Mayor Victoria Woodards.

The artwork, titled Swell, is constructed of eight powder-coated steel panels shaped like the bow of a ship, with art and poetry embedded throughout telling the story of the energy and opportunity that trade, transportation and the Port create for our region—past, present, and future. Rising 10 feet high on a 12-foot by 7-foot base, Swell is meant to be an interactive space, inviting visitors to walk through and take in the many beautiful perspectives and views it offers of the neighboring landscape, both inside and outside the sculpture. Fireman’s Park is in the first phase of renovation, with additional amenities to be added based on community input, as budget allows.

With an in-person dedication event not possible this year due to the pandemic, a video sharing the story of Swell has been produced by TV Tacoma and includes a virtual ribbon-cutting and remarks by Port and City officials. The video can be viewed here.

This project is owned and managed by the City of Tacoma’s Office of Arts & Cultural Vitality and made possible by funding from the Port of Tacoma.

Please use the hashtag #SwellTacoma to share your photos on social media. The Port and City would like to remind you to help stop the spread of COVID-19, please wear a mask and practice physical distancing when you visit Swell and whenever you are out in public.

About the City of Tacoma Office of Arts & Cultural Vitality

The arts are essential to Tacoma - enlivening its downtown core, contributing to the livability of its neighborhoods, and enhancing the quality of life of its residents and visitors. The Office of Arts & Cultural Vitality and the Tacoma Arts Commission play a vital role in supporting Tacoma's arts and cultural programs. They encourage the development of the local arts community through the administration of arts and cultural funding programs, managing the City's public art collection, and producing a variety of public programs that enhance and contribute to Tacoma's local economy.

About Rotator Creative

Rotator is a local art and creative firm. Members Lance Kagey, Kendon Shaw, and Adam Auter developed Swell, and the artwork was fabricated and installed by several local businesses. In addition to creating permanent public artworks, Rotator does design and creative work out of their office in downtown Tacoma, overlooking Fireman’s Park. Kagey is known locally for co-founding the guerilla art project Beautiful Angle.

About the Port of Tacoma

The Port of Tacoma is an economic engine for South Puget Sound. More than 29,000 jobs are generated by port activity, which also provides $195 million per year in state and local taxes to support education, roads and police and fire protection for our community. As a partner in The Northwest Seaport Alliance, the Port of Tacoma is also a major cargo gateway to Asia and Alaska. 

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