public art - land meets sea mural

In 2014, Metro Parks Tacoma embraced a policy of setting aside 1 percent of the district’s capital projects budget for public art.

This policy and the district’s $198 million capital improvement bond are driving forward numerous artworks throughout the district with support from the City of Tacoma’s Office of Arts & Cultural Vitality.

Goals for the art program include:

  • Using public art to foster Metro Parks’ multi-pronged mission of fostering active lifestyles, promoting appreciation and stewardship of nature and wildlife, and building understanding of culture and heritage.
  • Showcasing art outside traditional settings.
  • Contributing to the diversity and livelihood of the Tacoma art scene.
  • Making art accessible and visible throughout Tacoma.
  • Creating public art that delights, intrigues, attracts visitors, and broadens the public’s experience.

If you’d like to learn more about some of the other artworks around town, check out the Tacoma-Pierce County Public Art Tour or the Tacoma Public Art Map to see what surprises await in your neighborhood!

Tacoma-Pierce County Public Art Tour Tacoma Public Art Map Public Art Plan Upcoming Artistic Opportunities

Recent Installations

E.T. Pacific Walrus - Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium

E.T. Pacific Walrus

Artwork Title: E.T. Pacific Walrus
Location: Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium – Front entrance
Selected Artist: Matthew Gray Palmer
Installation Date:
 September 2017

Project Overview:

A committee selected Matthew Gray Palmer in January 2017 to create a life-size bronze memorial sculpture of E.T, a beloved Pacific walrus at Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium. The portrait was hand-sculpted and cast in bronze. Lisa Triggs, E.T.’s longtime caretaker, was part of the selection committee and helped ensure that the final sculpture was true to E.T.’s likeness and spirit. E.T. now greets all visitors as they enter the zoo.

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et matthew photobyingridbarrentine

Salish Nettles - Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium

Public ArtSalish Nettles

Artwork Title: Salish Nettles
Location: Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium – New Pacific Seas Aquarium
Selected Artist:
 Kait Rhoads
Installation Date:
 Summer 2018

Project Overview: 

Kait Rhoads was chosen by a selection committee in April 2017.

She will create a unique, suspended glass artwork inspired by jellyfish. The artwork will be a grouping of three sculptural elements directly inspired by Sea Nettle Jellies, created with Rhoads’s signature “hollow murrine” technique (sections of blown glass tubing woven together with copper wire onto a metal structure).

The technique results in stunning glass artworks that play with light and structure in a unique way. Rhoads is passionate about marine life, ocean conservation, and community involvement. As part of her project, she is working with local youth organization Hilltop Artists and the Museum of Glass (MOG) on elements of fabrication.

What does it take to hang an 80-pound jellyfish? Find Out

Kait Rhoads is a Seattle glass artist inspired by the natural world. She has shown ocean-inspired work at the recent “Into the Deep” at Tacoma’s Museum of Glass, as well as exhibiting nationally and internationally for three decades. Rhoads has been artist-in-residence at museums around the country, with work in collections at the Corning Museum of Glass, NY to the Seattle Art Museum, WA, Shanghai Museum of Glass, China and many more.

Salish Sea Nettles


Shoal and Shimmer - Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium

Artwork Title 1: ShoaPublic Art 4l

Artwork Title 2: Shimmer

  • Location: Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium – New Pacific Seas Aquarium
  • Selected Artist: Gordon Huether
  • Installation Date: summer 2018
  • Budget: $265,000

Project Overview

Gordon Huether was chosen by a selection committee for this project in May 2017. Huether will install two installations in the new Pacific Seas Aquarium. Both work with light, and play off of the incredible marine life showcased in the aquarium.

The first installation, Shoal, is inspired by a shoal of herring. Using hundreds of metal fish waterjet-cut in the artist’s studio, the installation will depicts the small, silvery school of herring that are abundant in the waters of Puget Sound. Colored LED lighing will cast a revolving cast of colors, changing the appearance of fish shapes.

The second installation, Shimmer, is inspired by the light shimmer found in the existing North Pacific Aquarium. The artist will capture and project video of the shimmer as an immersive installation, reminding viewers of the sensation of floating on the water. The two public art installations will be an integral part of the new aquarium, and will help tell the story of the ocean and our responsibility to protect it.

Gordon Huether, from Napa, CA, has made over 70 public art pieces from Austin, TX to the Bay Area, New York and Germany. He works to create a dialogue between the art and architecture of a site, enhancing people’s experience of a space with new perceptions.

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Public Art Shoal

Public Art Shimmer


Where Land Meets Sea - Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium

Where Land Meets Seajost

  • Artwork Title: Where Land Meets Sea
  • Location: Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium – New Pacific Seas Aquarium
  • Selected Artist: Maria Jost
  • Installation Date: summer 2018
  • Budget: $5,000

Project Overview

In June 2017, a selection committee chose Tacoma-based artist Maria Jost to create a mural that represents ocean life for the new Pacific Seas Aquarium at Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium. The 6’ x 15’ mural reflects the theme Where Land Meets the Sea. Jost’s intention is to showcase the dreamy beauty of the Puget Sound intertidal zone through use of a stylized aesthetic, while also staying true to the biology and physiology of the flora and fauna. Jost worked closely with PDZA staff to ensure key species were represented realistically, painting each element in ink and watercolor before creating a digital collage to form the mural. This is the largest piece that Jost has completed to date, and is a perfect fit, marrying her work as an artist and science teacher.


Maria Jost is a Tacoma illustrator and former scientist who teaches at the Science and Math Institute, which shares a facility with Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium. Her whimsical yet calculated collage-drawings show a scientist’s take on nature’s beauty, most recently seen in her interactive “Sea Creature Scavenger Hunt” around West Seattle.

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pdza land meets sea mural

Alluvion - Dune Peninsula at Point Defiance Park


  • Location: Dune Peninsula at Point Defiance Park
  • Selected Artist: Adam Kuby
  • Installation Date: Fall 2017
  • Budget: $125,000

Project Overview

In March 2016, Adam Kuby was awarded a commission to create an outdoor sculpture for the new 11-acre park on the peninsula, on the east side of Point Defiance Park next to the Tacoma Yacht Club. Alluvion harks back to the origin of the site through the use of a smokestack pipe. The peninsula was built of slag, or waste materials, from the former Asarco copper smelter. For decades, the giant smelter smokestack dominated its surroundings, providing jobs but also polluting the environment.

The artwork was created by starting with 9 segments of pipe, each 15′ long x 3′ in diameter. The first pipe was left whole. The next piece was cut in two, the next one cut in 4, then 8 and so on… 16, 32, 64, 128… The artwork refers to all the metal that was produced at the ASARCO site for items large and small, but the composition also touches on the darker side of the smokestack––its dissemination of arsenic and heavy metal toxins fanning out across the region.

The sculpture’s physical transformation along its length––from a tall vertical object to a series of low elements in the landscape––also parallels the transformation of the industrial site into a park. Gravel paths and meadow grasses weave through the sculpture, integrating it into the park environment. The plantings offer a soft counterpoint to the hard metal, and the paths allow people to move through and experience the artwork from many vantage points.

art alluvion

Alluvion on Dune Peninsula

Little Makers - Dune Peninsula at Point Defiance Park

Little Makers

  • Artwork Title: Little Makers
  • Location: Dune Peninsula at Point Defiance Park
  • Artist: Nichole Rathburn
  • Date: 2019

Cast Bronze
Commissioned by the Metropolitan Park District of Tacoma

“A man inflicts himself on his environment.”  -Frank Herbert, in an interview with Willis E. McNelly, 1969

In Frank Herbert’s landmark novel, Dune, sandtrout were responsible for depleting the planet Arrakis of water. Attempts to terraform Dune into a livable environment mirror the creation of this park on the former slag pile from the ASARCO Smelter.

Cast at Two Ravens Studio in Tacoma, Washington.

Little Makers Public Art

Family of the Thunderbird - Owen Beach Promenade at Point Defiance Park

syayayəʔ ʔə tiiɫ x̌ʷiqʷadiʔ pt.2 (“Family of the Thunderbird”)

  • Artwork Title: syayayəʔ ʔə tiiɫ x̌ʷiqʷadiʔ pt.2
  • Location: Point Defiance Park, Owen Beach promenade
  • Selected Artist: Anthony Duenas
  • Installation Date: 2018
  • Budget: $8,000

Project Overview

Artist Anthony Duenas (Puyallup) was selected to complete 3 large painted panels for placement on a utility building at Point Defiance Park. The central mural tells the story of how the thunderbird created the Puyallup people. Ancestors are represented in the wings of the thunderbirds and the woman represents the continuation of life cycles – her open arms welcoming all. The companion murals along the side of the building depict Puyallup tribesmen who raced in the open waters around what is now known as Point Defiance and back to Owen Beach.

Family of the Thunderbird Public Art

Artist Training Cohort - Eastside Community Center

Metro Parks Tacoma, through the work of lead artists Christopher Paul Jordan and Kenji Stoll, selected a cohort of eleven artists with ties to the Eastside neighborhood to participate in a paid public art training program.

The goal of this training cohort was preparing artists to move from a studio art practice to creating public artworks. The cohort represented a diverse range of art forms, ethnicities, cultural experiences, ages, backgrounds, and abilities.

Through classroom sessions with experts and a hands-on training project, the cohort learned about public art, practiced responding to artist calls, wrote and presented their own project proposals, and each created a temporary public artwork.

Each artist received a $500 attendance-based stipend upon completion of the training program, with an additional $1,000 budget for the temporary public artwork.

Participating artists included: Adika Bell, Dionne Bonner, Lisa Fruichantie, LeShawn Gamble, Tiffanny Hammonds (through a partnership with Sound Transit), Gerardo Peña, Elizabeth Reeves, Brian Robinson, Chuck Taylor, Dion Thomas, James Youngs, Jasmine Brown (audited).

Art Brief - Eastside Community Center

Eastside Community Center Art Brief

Artwork Title: Art Brief
Location: Eastside Community Center
Selected Artists: 
Christopher Paul Jordan and Kenji Stoll
Installation Date:
 May 2017

Project Overview:

In November 2017 a committee selected Tacoma-based artist team Christopher Paul Jordan and Kenji Stoll to create an art strategy for the new Eastside Community Center (ESCC). The resulting Art Brief recommends up to 7 different opportunities that were developed based on feedback from the community engagement process, and work with City of Tacoma Arts Staff. Opportunities include:
Purchase of existing artworks to display in the center

  • A public art training program
  • Two memorial artworks
  • A youth involved mural
  • Several community history exhibits
  • A large outdoor sculpture to welcome visitors

Creative opportunities suggested in the Art Brief are open to everyone, regardless of race, ethnicity, class, gender, sexual orientation, or religious background.

Given the cultural and historical context of the Eastside, creative opportunities outlined in the brief will have a strong emphasis on cultural relevancy and equity, and will prioritize artists who can exemplify these connections and experiences.

Eastside artists and residents, people who have strong historical connections to the Eastside, people of Indigenous ancestry, and/or people of immigrant and refugee communities are especially encouraged to participate.

escc art brief

Portable Works Purchase - Eastside Community Center

Eastside Community Center Portable Works Purchase

  • Artwork Title: Portable Works Purchase
  • Location: Eastside Community Center
  • Selected Artists: Darishma Alphonse, Adika Bell, Jasmine Brown, Kate Cendejas Thun, Anthony Duenas, Lisa Fruichantie, Lourdes Jackson, Gwen Jones, Denis Maina, Gerardo Peña, Shaun Peterson, Kenya Shakoorm, Grace A Washington
  • Installation Date: January 2018
  • Budget: $14,000

Project Overview

In September 2017, a call was released encouraging Pierce County artists to submit existing original portable artworks for consideration of purchase and installation at the new Eastside Community Center. Eastside artists and residents, people with strong historical connections to the Eastside, people of Indigenous ancestry, and/or people of immigrant and refugee communities were especially encouraged to participate.

36 artists submitted applications, and work from 13 artists was selected. The budget is $14,000 in total purchases including any required framing and will not require a resolution for contract approval by the Board. The panel decided to reserve approximately $2,000 of the budget to make additional purchases later to fill gaps in representation missing from the current selections. The process for those purchases will be determined at a later date. The artworks selected represent a wide range of media and styles, and the artists selected come from many ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds. All artists have geographic or cultural connections to the Eastside.

Malcolm X Center Mural - People's Community Center

In 2016, Christopher Paul Jordan of Fab-5 led the development and implementation of a Mural Training and Community Engagement Project at People’s Community Center designed specifically to create professional development opportunities for emerging artists of color in the area. The training program culminated in a mural for the exterior of People’s Community Center, Malcolm X Center Mural, as well as indoor public art commissions.

The goals of the project were to:

  • Attract more artists of color
  • Engage multiple artists in the public art process
  • Train artists to work on public art projects
  • Increase access for artists of color and connect them with other opportunities in the city
  • Engage artists cross-generationally
  • Tell the story of People’s Community Center and Hilltop
  • Produce community-based artwork

In addition to the mural, two members of the cohort also went on to create artwork for a second opportunity inside of People’s Community Center, collecting and displaying oral histories of the neighborhood through a touch-activated artwork. As part of a third project, 15 artworks from 13 artists of color with strong ties to Hilltop were also purchased through an open application process for permanent public display inside the completed center. The completed mural and portable artworks are part of the City of Tacoma’s Municipal Art Collection. These public art projects were managed by the City of Tacoma’s Office of Arts and Cultural Vitality, in partnership with Metro Parks Tacoma.

Project Summary: HUE Collaborative and the People’s Community Center Mural

Click image to view larger

peoples mural

Ghost Log - Ruston Way Waterfront, Dickman Mill Park

Ghost Log

  • Artwork Title: Ghost Log
  • Location: Ruston Way Waterfront – Dickman Mill Park
  • Selected Artist: Mary Coss
  • Installation Date: Forthcoming 2020
  • Budget: $115,000

Project Overview

Originally commissioned as the design team artist for the current Dickman Mill Park Improvements Project, Mary Coss proposes a monumental artwork for Dickman Mill Park to go with the reinstallation of the historic head saw on the original mill site.

The artwork, Ghost Log, resembles a cedar log that is 7.5’ in diameter, 40’ long. It morphs from the form of a gear (inspired by the historic Dickman Mill head saw) to the organic form of tree limbs, referencing both the industrial heritage of the site and the awe-inspiring natural resources that made that industry possible.

Ghost Log will be constructed of corten steel. The exterior will be wrapped in a laser-cut pattern resembling cedar bark, punctuated by fragments of text drawn from historical sources and contemporary conversations with community members associated with the site.

Ghost Log public art