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New Tacoma Public Artwork Celebrates Port’s Centennial

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Port of Tacoma Swell Art Piece. Screenshot from City Of Tacoma YouTube video

The Port of Tacoma and the City of Tacoma recently unveiled a new public art piece commemorating the Port of Tacoma’s centennial, 1918-2018, at Fireman’s Park in downtown Tacoma.

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 the region. 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.

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,” Port of Tacoma Commission President John McCarthy said in a press release. “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,” Mayor Victoria Woodards said in the release.

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.