Arts & EntertainmentSpotlight

Showing Tacoma Love with Art You Can Walk Through

When you have big ideas to brighten up a dismal public area, you may find it easier to beg forgiveness than to ask permission.

That’s exactly what Seong Shin set out to do with Love Tacoma Lane, an interactive art installation created by the community, including UWT and SoTA students and passersby, on the gated walkway along the east side of St. Helens Ave. just south of Sixth Avenue.

“We want people to have a smaller footprint, so let’s try to create a walkable neighborhood in the city,” Shin said.

Shin is a Principal in Interior Design at McGranahan Architects and lives in one of the Triangle Townhomes that overlook mountains, the cityscape, and the Dome, but the nearest thing in view is a big, gaping “Silent Hill” hole where a building (and a sidewalk) used to be. Finding information about the building that used to be there proves difficult but you can see a photograph of it two blocks south next to the Municipal Building in Ledger Square.

Over the six and a half years Shin lived here, this particular area has been a thorn in her side. There used to be signs heralding new condos, but those have since disappeared.

Because Shin is a professional designer, she thought it was going to be too hard to ask permission from the city, as Tacoma doesn’t have the same avenues you could pursue in “other cities” to do public art installations. She had three goals: make people pay attention to this, create interest for possible investors, and celebrate Tacoma.

Originally the idea was to have locks on the fence, inspired by photos of a bridge in Paris that had locks all over it posted by Shin’s mother-in-law. Shin was worried this would be too heavy for the gate if it became as popular as the bridge in Paris, so the idea shifted to having tags with messages about what people love about Tacoma.

Before the installation was put into place, three metal bars were put in over the top to improve the safety of the gated walkway.

ARC Printing located just down the hill provided the tags. One side is for writing and the other side shows a color. The opposite side of the fence then shows a rainbow.

Cards were made at community meetings, by local shoppers, and by people just walking through.

Shin wanted to reach out to the community, including School of the Arts and UWT’s Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences department.

Shin connected with professor Beverly Naidus, who was teaching a class titled “Eco-art and The Artist as Visionary and Dreamer” last quarter. Instead of what they currently love about Tacoma, Naidus asked students to write down or draw their dream for Tacoma. She described the event via email: “We took a ride on the Link on a very rainy last day of class, walked to the site and tied the tags on the fence for the community to see.”

After putting up displays and the cards, Shin posted photos of them on the web. Reading the tags feels like flipping through pages of Found magazine or Post Secret. One tag reads, “My grandfather was born in 1879 at 9th & C Street.” Another, “I love being naked in Tacoma!” And “I love Tacoma ‘Elf’ Storage in Tacoma” (with additional note that reads “I second that”).

Still somewhat fearing backlash, Shin was relieved when members of city government she was connected with responded positively. Shin is working with the permit office to see if public art installation permits can be a possibility for Tacoma.

Shin is hoping to add more cards with a Valentine’s Day event. Readers can watch the Love Tacoma Lane page on Facebook for further details.


Photo by Andy Cox.