New Link station artwork honors Tacoma’s rail history

The Tacoma Arts Commission announced today that public artwork for the new Link light rail stations at South 11th Street and Commerce Street near Pacific Plaza and Tacoma School of the Arts downtown was installed on Aug. 23.

The etched glass panels are the work of local artist Chandler O’Leary. Earlier this spring, the commission put out a call to artists to create a design that would be suitable for etching into the glass panels of the shelters at the new station. According to the commission, O’Leary’s design pulls inspiration from Tacoma’s rail story — past, present, and future — and consists of two distinct rail lines. One represents traditional railroad tracks, while the other represents our modern light rail tracks. The traditional railroad track branches out into many tracks, symbolizing Tacoma’s transition to an urban hub. The light rail line, on the other hand, begins as several tracks that converge into one, depicting the end of Tacoma’s streetcar system, and the city’s path into the future with Link light rail.

In the background, O’Leary chose to illustrate some of Tacoma’s most iconic and historic buildings. Every structure shown has some connection to the city’s rail system — having existed along a previous streetcar line, the current light rail line, or overlooking our railroad line.

“With my design, I aim to transform the simple act of waiting for the train into an intimate, reflective and inspiring experience — a quiet, personal moment in the heart of a bustling, thriving city,” said O’Leary.

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TOP: One of artist Chandler O'Leary's early sketches of the piece. ABOVE: Workers installing etched glass panels designed by O'Leary. (PHOTOS COURTESY CHANDLER O'LEARY)