The Art Galleries of the Washington State Ferries

Neighborhood artist gallery about MV Chimacum

It’s simple to skip the art. For regular ferry riders, then it could blend in a daily commute on the Washington State Ferries’ gestalt. And all the 23 present ferries from the system would be a floating art gallery — a curated exhibit of wooden masks, paintings, historic photos and prints observing the ferry’s name, the communities it serves as well as Washington’s Native American civilization.

The gallery of ferry art starts with the boat’s name, and naming a new ferry is the job of the Washington State Transportation Commission. The commission solicits nominations and necessitates hints to get statewide significance reflecting the image and culture of Washington. State-adopted logos, tribal names, geographical places and bodies of water as well as names reflecting nautical heritage are all acceptable.

“Market” from Judy Anderson on MV Chimacum

Following a time of review and public input, the choice is made by the commission. With the 2016 decommissioning of this nation’s namesake boat, the Evergreen, all operating ferries have names attached into the American language, leaders places and background. Useful background info for every boat’s name is submitted on the Washington State Ferries website.

“Klickitat Child’s Berry Basket” on MV Wenatchee

In 1974, the Washington State Legislature created the Art in Public Places Program administered by the Washington State Arts Commission. From 1981 to 1982, for a year, the commission displayed and obtained art over the ferries the bits.

The last of this commission-acquired art may be viewed serving the Southworth run. Four painted and carved cedar panels from artist James Jordan branded “Sistiutl,” “Killer Whale,” “Sea Monsters” and “Owl” are mounted at the two cottages of this ferry. The boat art has been retrieved for exhibit in state public buildings as ferries have been decommissioned.

“Sea Bear” by Martin Oliver on MV Tacoma

Since the ’90s, Washington State Ferries has contracted with Tela Art, a Redmond-based art consulting firm, to assist with art choice ahead of the portfolio of possibilities goes to the service for final approval. The method varies by ferry but honors two factors — the name of the ferry along with the participation of this community the name reflects.

“Each new ferry has a new name and a new neighborhood,” said Laurie Post, consultant with Tela Art. “They need their art and their thinking represented in the choice.”

Post reported that additional factors can also be considered.

“The art can’t be too expensive and it must withstand the effects of sun, saltwater from the atmosphere and the general public,” she said. “With tribal art, we invite them not to give us significant historic artifacts but rather use photos and digital images of their job.”

The nation’s brand new ferry, MV Chimacum, isalso, as stated by the WSF website, called after “the Chimacum People who spoke the Chimaquan dialect, occupied the area of the Quimper Peninsula, in Washington state, that contains Port Hadlock and Port Townsend. The modern area of Chimacum, Washington, is called after the tribe”

Mosquito Fleet display on MV Chimacum

Deciding the art for the Chimacum was a job. The Chimacum band no longer exists as a formal thing. Along with the ferry, that functions the Bremerton-Seattle course, was the first ferry assigned in a few years to Bremerton.

Enter from Bremerton’s ferry commuters and leaders had been firmly in favor of works of art that represented Bremerton, so Tela and Washington State Ferries representatives worked closely together with Bremerton-based associations to be involved in the choice. The Kitsap Historical Society combed through its archives of historical photographs to choose a portfolio which will signify Bremerton history. The enlarged, black-and-white photographs on screen show scenes from Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, downtown Bremerton plus also a Port Hadlock Dramatic family.

Basket by Pat Courtney Gold on MV Wenatchee

In Addition, Tela worked with all the Bremerton Arts Commission to set a call out to musicians living in Kitsap, Mason and Jefferson counties. Cynthia Englegau, the town of Bremerton liaison to the arts commission, said that over 200 pieces of art were submitted for thought. The art commission had a double-round choice procedure, eventually selecting works for screen — a combination of prints, photography and paintings.

Ferry terminal series by Alex Young on MV Tacoma

“This proved to be a quite difficult process since so many of these art graphics were absolutely magnificent,” Englegau explained.

Chimacum ferry riders can view the gallery of local artists on top of every one of the stairwells from the car deck. Moreover, the MV Chimacum includes a informative display and photos of their Puget Sound Mosquito Fleet, Washington’s ancient private ferry system.

The MV Tacoma and Wenatchee ferries serving the Bainbridge course and MV Puyallup serving the Kingston path include three-dimensional Native American art in their own galleries. About the MV Tacoma, in addition to historic photos of older Tacoma selected from the Washington State Historical Society, plexiglass cases in front and rear of the ferry screen Native art including “Bear Mask” made from alder wood, horsehair, fish bone and cedar bark fiber from artist George David (Tla-o-qui-aht); a mask carved by Haida artist Bruce Cook; and a lithograph titled “Sea Bear” from Martin Oliver.

Basket by Pat Courtney Gold on MV Wenatchee

MV Tacoma also includes a framed poster of an iconic watercolor painting of the Bainbridge ferry terminal by Alex Young. Young, whose show of ferry terminal watercolors have become collector’s items, has been the Washington State Department of Transportation bridge and structures architect that supervised ferry terminal design. Beginning in 1984, he produced a painting of a ferry docked at a terminal.

“Human Mask” by Greg Colfax on MV Puyallup

The art on the Wenatchee ferry reflects the art of the Columbia River tribes, including historical photos of Native life along the lake and ribbons woven by Pat Gold (Wasco-Tlinget) utilizing methods and designs unique to the area.

Similarly, the art gallery on Kingston’s Puyallup ferry is a combination of historical Puyallup photographs from the Washington State Historical Society along with Ezra Meeker Historical Society and art in Northwest Native American musicians. Plexiglass displays show off a mask carved from Makah artist Greg Colfax plus also a red cedar “Eagle Mask” from Robert Leask (Haida-Tlinget-Tsimpshian).

The newest ferry, MV Suquamish, scheduled to begin operation in 2018, was nominated from the region’s Suquamish Tribe. In preparation for its launch, Tela and Washington State Ferries are operating with tribal representatives to determine art that reflects the ferry’s namesake.

“Quinalt Paddle,” photo by Denny Hurtado on MV Chimacum

April Leigh, communications manager at the Suquamish Tribe, said tribal artists, leaders and the community have been considering approaches to showcase not only the tribe’s heritage but also its present story. The tribe’s comprehensive archive of photography will be shared as a screen. But at a modern twist, they have been contemplating possibilities that would embed Native design and vision to the ferry’s structural characteristics like walls and tables.

A journey aboard one of those nation ferries can be only a commute. However, in addition, it can be a chance to have a lap round the boat to navigate a community-curated art and historic exhibition showcasing the creativity of Washington musicians, the history of the ferry’s namesake and also the civilization of Washington’s tribes.

“Elk Hide Drum” by Loren White
“Heal Please” by Susan Weirsma on MV Chimacum
“Thunderbird Moon” by Anthony Jones on MV Chimacum