Waiting for the Interurban
Sometimes, a work of political public art is so powerful, so clear in purpose, that it requires no explanatory plaque, no interpretive kiosk.
That seemed to be the case in mid-May 2004 in Fremont, an artsy district of Seattle, where someone had altered the Frozen Bus Stop People statues by placing bags over their heads -- Iraqi prisoner-style. It was horrifying -- the innocent bus people humiliated, debased, right there on the street, in front of about eight coffee shops.
Now keep in mind -- the bus people are humiliated nearly every day, so it's not as big a deal as, say, bagging Abe in the Lincoln Memorial, or the giant Sam Houston.
Named "Waiting for the Interurban," this public sculpture is the kind of self-aware artistic statement we generally loathe. But it's close to the Bridge Troll and the Lenin statue, and turns out to be a community comedy magnet.
Since 1979, just north of the Fremont Bridge, the Interurban's six cast aluminum figures (including a dog) have stood waiting for a cast aluminum bus that never arrives.
Now subject to frequent -- and encouraged -- "art attacks," the Interurban is forever festooned with layers of junk, clothing, and masquerade attire, celebrating whatever. It's Fremont's equivalent of a Dairy Queen marquee -- "Congrats on the twins Aunt Sue!"
The Iraqi Torture attack on the Interurban was preceded by slightly less-focused art terrorists. A week earlier, we witnessed a muddled pastiche of party ribbons, loud ties, rubber gloves, and sign that said "HAPPY BIRTHDAY OCEAN."
Waiting for the Interurban was created by the late artist Richard Beyer, who also sculpted the well-endowed bull and the book-nerd coyote in Ellensburg, Washington. Beyer was on the Fremont Arts Council committee when a sculptor was chosen for the work (since no one applied, he chose himself). Committee member (and honorary mayor) Armen Stepanian disagreed, and the two squabbled. Beyer ultimately got his revenge by making the dog's face resemble Stepanian.
Note: Tipster Will Wheat points out that the original Interurban was actually a street car.