Washington State Department of Transportation to be the first statewide agency to host an artist-in-residence

Washington will become the first state to embed an artist in a statewide agency, bringing a creative approach to advancing the agency’s goals like improving safety, reducing congestion, promoting economic vitality, supporting multimodal transportation systems, and creating healthier communities.

An artist-in-residence will spend a year working with the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) to help develop new ways to achieve agency goals through a first-of-its-kind program created by ArtPlace America and Transportation for America, a program of Smart Growth America. WSDOT will be the first stage agency in the country to pilot an artist-in-residence program.

Applications are now open for artists interested in the year-long position, which will be located within WSDOT. The call for artists and application can be found here.

See the full call for artists

Join Smart Growth America, ArtPlace America, and WSDOT next Tuesday, December 18 at 4 p.m. ET for a webinar. We’ll cover how artists can contribute to transportation infrastructure, the specifics about this exciting year-long opportunity, and answer questions during this hour-long webinar. Register >> 
Recognized as a tool for pioneering innovative and creative solutions, artist-in-residence programs have been piloted across the nation in municipal governmental agencies, including the Los Angeles and Seattle DOTs, but never before at a statewide agency.

Several organizations collaborated on the artist-in-residence program. ArtPlace America is providing a $125,000 grant for the program, including a $40,000 stipend for the selected artist and $25,000 for a final project(s) the artist and staff develop. Transportation for America (T4A) will administer both the funds and the overall program, including providing staff and consulting assistance. The State Smart Transportation Initiative (SSTI) will also provide staff support. Both T4A and SSTI are programs of Smart Growth America. WSDOT will supply in-kind contributions consisting of work space for the selected artist and staff time for agency workers to collaborate on the groundbreaking new program.

“Artists can provide fresh approaches and new ways of doing things, interpret complex processes, and provide unique perspectives for existing programs,” said Ben Stone, Smart Growth America’s director of arts & culture. “While a handful of cities have embedded artists in various departments over the years, WSDOT will be the first statewide agency to embark on such a program. We’re excited to be a part of helping Washington state harness arts and creativity to create better supported and more beloved transportation projects that help accomplish the state’s goals.”

Why employ an artist-in-residence?

“This type of program has a proven track record at the municipal level by bringing creativity to design challenges, increasing community buy-in, fostering deeper community engagement, building relationships with underrepresented communities and helping improve processes for day-to-day work,” said Roger Millar, WSDOT’s secretary of transportation. “Our goal is to find innovative ways to better engage the communities we serve and deliver the best possible transportation projects.”

What will an artist-in-residence do?

The residency will run for one year with rotations through WSDOT’s core divisions to gain knowledge on the agency’s operations, priorities and challenges. The artist will then propose projects to address WSDOT’s overarching goals while improving community engagement, supporting alternatives to single occupancy vehicle transport and enhancing safety and equity. After four months of rotations, eight months will be devoted to the artist’s project(s) development and production.

Cities across the country have engaged artists-in-residence to support their efforts. The Seattle Housing Authority has engaged artists-in-residence to collaboratively produce art with residents of Yesler Terrace that celebrates the community’s culture and history, builds connections to the adjacent neighborhoods, and connects residents to the arts. The Seattle Department of Transportation has embedded artists-in-residence in the northwest tower of the Fremont Bridge to produce art and performances that explore the historic bridge’s role and meaning in Seattle.

The Los Angeles Department of Transportation’s artists-in-residence have installed interactive artistic elements to bus shelters, taught storytelling skills to the DOT staff to help them better communicate their projects to the public, and served as a bridge between transportation advocates and DOT staff. In Minneapolis, artists-in-residence have used theatre to help the city’s Regulatory Services Department staff develop more empathetic policies and better relate to their constituents, while St Paul’s artists-in-residence have worked to make community meetings more creative, fun, and productive.

“We are thrilled to invest in the first artist-in-residence program within state government, and to share the results with state departments of transportation across the country,” said Jamie Bennett, ArtPlace America’s executive director. “WSDOT will establish a valuable model for how artists can contribute toward the planning, creation and utilization of safe, sustainable and integrated multimodal transportation system.”

The artist will be based in WSDOT’s headquarters in Olympia, but may also work from one of WSDOT’s regional offices in Spokane, Wenatchee, Shoreline, Tumwater, Union Gap, or Vancouver for part of the residency.

Interested artists can learn more about the position and apply for consideration here.

Learn more and apply

Equal Opportunity Employment

Equal opportunity and having a diverse staff are fundamental principles at Transportation for America. Employment and promotional opportunities are based upon individual capabilities and qualifications without regard to race, color, religion, gender, pregnancy, sexual orientation/preference, age, national origin, marital status, citizenship, disability, veteran status, or any other protected characteristic as established under law.

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Transportation for America is an alliance of elected, business, and civic leaders from communities across the country, united to ensure that states and the federal government step up to invest in smart, homegrown, locally-driven transportation solutions — because these are the investments that hold the key to our future economic prosperity. T4America is a program of Smart Growth America. 

The State Smart Transportation Initiative promotes transportation practices that advance environmental sustainability and equitable economic development, while maintaining high standards of governmental efficiency and transparency. It is jointly operated by the University of Wisconsin and Smart Growth America.

ArtPlace America is a ten-year collaboration among a number of foundations, federal agencies, and financial institutions. We began our work as an organization in 2011, and will finish in 2020. Our mission is to position arts and culture as a core sector of community planning and development.

WSDOT keeps people, businesses and the economy moving by operating and improving the state’s transportation systems. To learn more about what we’re doing, go to www.wsdot.wa.gov/news for pictures, videos, news and blogs. Real time traffic information is available at wsdot.com/traffic or by dialing 511.

Creative Placemaking Transportation