International Sculpture Day: “Aurora Bright Dawn” Connecting Community to Place

This blog post was originally published on ARTSblog.

International Sculpture Day (IS Day), on April 27th, is a worldwide event celebrating the many ways sculpture and public art impact and improve people’s lives. IS Day, first initiated by the International Sculpture Center (ISC) in 2015, occurs on the last Saturday of April. On this day, Artists and groups interested in the Arts, host events including workshops, studio tours, gallery openings, performances, project dedications, and more, celebrating how sculpture, in its many forms, improves lives.

The definition of sculpture is expanding to include traditional forms and works including performance, video, installation art, public art, and more. IS Day is a great way to engage with sculpture and its power in communities.

As a Board Member of ISC and a Public Artist, I am participating in IS Day by dedicating Aurora Bright Dawn. This Public Artwork combines space, color and form on an aging pedestrian bridge, promoting community connectivity and safe crossing. This project, made possible by a grant from the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT), improves pedestrian mobility.

The colorful fins enliven the bridge.
People of all ages engage with the Art.

The Aurora Licton Urban Village (ALUV) wrote the grant seeking an Artist to promote identity on Aurora Avenue, a state highway that divides their community.

ALUV’s application focused on safe pedestrian crossings, connectivity and neighborhood identity. The Seattle Office of Arts and Culture, who administered the grant, selected me from a Public Art RFQ.

The challenge to humanize this space was a tall order. Working with the community, our Team determined that the bridge presented the best opportunity for creating a neighborhood landmark, supporting ALUV’s goals.

We brought meaning to the bridge by selecting colors related to the name of the highway and the community. Aurora, from Latin, means dawn and inspired the sunrise palette. Licton, from the Lushootsheed, Liq’tid, means reddish mud, and Springs, from the Germanic, springen, means head of a well, inspired the water colors.

Rosy dawn hues inspire our color selection.
Cool blue hues recall water the imagery of Licton Springs.

Because the sun arcs over the bridge’s East/West alignment, our Team decided to work with light and color, using KodaXT, a durable colorfast polycarbonate. The brightly colored fins glow in sunlight. We painted the railing orange, a dominant color along the route. These nuances of color, form and shadow, promote perceptual experience. I have noticed people taking photographs of the fins and themselves. Before it was dull and drab, now it is a new destination.

The fins explode with color, adding shadow patterns to the walkway.
Looking to the west in the afternoon / Looking to the west at sunset.
Looking to the east in the late afternoon.
The artist and the community at work preparing the ground for planting.

Once the design work completed, we realized that the area surrounded by the ramp was barren. I approached a local Lowes for a donation of daffodil bulbs. They generously offered us daffodils at cost, and I purchased them for ALUV. We engaged the community in a planting project, requiring public participation and stewardship. The community cleared the site and planted 1,700 bulbs.

On March 21st, the first day of spring, they bloomed. This connection with community, site and the ongoing stewardship of this project is how Public Art and Sculpture affect communities in profound ways.

Public Art transforms neighborhoods by promoting community values, fostering pride of ownership, social interaction, and a sense of belonging. All communities deserve safe and supportive environments. IS Day is about reflecting on all that Art and Sculpture bring into our lives, enriching our experiences and our optimism for the future.

Aurora Avenue North Improvement Project, “Bright Dawn”, Seattle, WA

Date: 2017-2019         (built)

Construction Budget: $197,400 for Enhancements

Materials: Koda XT Colored Polycarbonate Panels & Paint

Height: 25 Feet, Width: 45 Feet, Length: 175 Feet

Sponsor: City of Seattle Office of Arts & Culture

Contact: Kristen Ramirez, Office of Arts and Culture: 206.615.1095


Artist website:

Project Team:

Artist: Vicki Scuri SiteWorks with Alexandr Polzin

Engineer: SDOT

Prime Contractor: CA Carey Inc.