Art installation approved for downtown Tacoma Theater District facade

A plan to install artwork on a bare wall located between two historic buildings in Tacoma’s Theater District is closer to being realized.

The blank facade is situated between the Kress Building, located at 934-936 Broadway, and the C. N. Gardener Building, located at 928-930 Broadway. The Kress Building was designed by architect E. J. T. Hoffman, built in 1925, and added to Tacoma’s Register of Historic Places in 2006 (see “Council adds buildings to register of historic places,” Tacoma Daily Index, March 30, 2006; “Resolution would add buildings to register of historic places,” Tacoma Daily Index, March 27, 2006; and “Kress Building gets historic nod from City,” Tacoma Daily Index, Feb. 23, 2006). The C. N. Gardener Building was designed by architect George W. Bullard, built in 1907, and added to Tacoma’s Register of Historic Places in 2001.

Current building tenants include the United States Geological Survey Washington Water Science Center, Kompan, and Swenson Say Faget.

“The ownership is seeking approval to create a space on the exterior bore wall to install an art installation that will enhance the vitality of the Broadway Theater District,” wrote Eric Cederstrand, who is identified as a member of the ownership group in the proposal submitted to Tacoma’s Landmarks Preservation Commission earlier this year (see “Art installation proposed for downtown Tacoma Theater District facade,” Tacoma Daily Index, May 11, 2015). “We believe this will be a very nice addition to a rather bleak-looking wall and help build the identity of the arts along Broadway.”

The artwork will be created by Seattle-based artist Jonathan Clarren and consist of a trio of three-dimensional steel, laser-cut half-spheres that range in diameter between three feet and nearly seven feet, and feature an intricate design pattern, according to the proposal.

“The idea here is that as the sun is going around, it will cast shadows on the wall [that are] always moving and changing,” Cederstrand told Tacoma’s Landmarks Preservation Commission during a public meeting at City Hall earlier this month. “What we are going to do is add some soft uplights to [an existing awning] that will create some shadowing at night and really kind of create something in that mid-block. If you go down there at night, you’ll see what I am talking about. It’s just kind of dark through there. So it just kind of adds a little pizzazz to it. It’s in the Theater District—a place where we should have some more artwork.

“I think it’s a really nice complement to the building and will create a little bit of energy,” added Cederstrand. “I think it will be a nice addition to the community. Hopefully, it just takes the ugliness of that wall out and just highlights the two historic buildings.”

Tacoma’s Landmarks Preservation approved the plan on May 13. City staff noted the historic facades of the Kress Building and the Gardener Building will be retained and preserved, the installation will be sited on the non-historic facade between the two buildings, and no historic material will be removed or destroyed.

The project is estimated to cost approximately $20,000 to $25,000.

As for when the artwork will be installed, Cederstrand told the Tacoma Daily Index, “We are working with the artist now and hopefully will have a better timeline in the next few weeks. Could be as soon as October, but it has to be constructed and engineered before it goes up.”

To read the Tacoma Daily Index‘s complete and comprehensive coverage of the historic Kress Building and C. N. Gardener Building, click on the following links:

Todd Matthews is editor of the Tacoma Daily Index, an award-winning journalist, and author of A Reporter At Large and Wah Mee. His journalism is collected online at