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All-Gender Restroom Art Embraces Inclusivity and Celebrates LGBTQIA+ Community

July 13, 2023

Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA) has long been recognized for its commitment to inclusivity and celebrating diversity. In a groundbreaking move, SEA has unveiled its brand-new, multi-user all-gender restroom on the D Concourse. This is a significant step toward inclusivity, considering that fewer than 10 airports across the United States currently have all-gender restrooms. We couldn't be more excited about this positive change and the powerful statement it makes in support of the LGBTQIA+ community!

Now, let’s look behind the scenes and share the evolution of merging meaningful art with this remarkable project. In 2022, the Restroom Renovation project team approached the Public Art Program at SEA to collaborate on creating a welcoming restroom entrance. Have you ever stood in front of an empty wall and thought it could use some art? Us too! After brainstorming various concepts, the joint team decided to transform the entrance into a salon-style art wall. This unique approach not only celebrates the LGBTQIA+ community but also provides a safe and inclusive environment for all travelers.

The Port of Seattle's Public Art Program issued a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) at the end of 2022, inviting visual and multidisciplinary artists or artist teams to submit artworks that represent, welcome, or support the LGBTQIA+ community. The RFQ garnered a remarkable response, with numerous artists and galleries answering the call. A three-person selection panel was entrusted with reviewing the submissions:

  • Mandy Xiggores, a Port employee
  • Tiss Flock, arts and culture critic — portfolio
  • Jas Keimig, art critic and artist — portfolio

The panel carefully reviewed the submitted artworks, and ultimately selected 22 artworks by 12 talented local and national artists for the 45-foot-long wall in front of the D2 Restroom.

Let's take a closer look at the amazing pieces that were selected:

  • Jun Yang submitted two acrylic paintings: "Botanical Garden Gatherers" and "Let Me Live." Originally from Seoul, South Korea, Yang currently resides in San Francisco. He explains that after moving to the United States from Seoul twelve years ago, he felt both accepted and protected living in the US, empowered to embrace fully who he is as a queer Asian immigrant artist and his own unique story of trauma, isolation, and healing. “His art not only fights against judgmental perspectives and exclusionary norms, but his paintings are also love letters to the LGBTQIA+ and immigrant communities and himself." (Schlomer Haus Gallery)
  • Juan Alonso-Rodriguez’s "Desert Sticks & Stones Series #1-7" are acrylic paintings on Arches Hot Press watercolor paper, created in 2022. Alonso-Rodriguez, a Cuban-born, queer visual artist, shares, "These artworks were inspired and created during one of my self-imposed residencies in the California desert. I find that traveling and discovering new settings often trigger fresh ideas for creativity and further understanding of our diverse environments." (Artist’s statement)
  • DecorativeSeth Sexton’s artwork "Pride Flag Variation" is a pen and ink drawing on BFK archival paper. Sexton, a queer, Seattle-based multidisciplinary artist, explores repetition and pattern in his meticulous pen and ink drawings. “His obsessive accumulation of circle forms results in an acute sense of time and duration which allows both artist and viewer to transcend into a dream-like meditation where the mundane becomes profound. The resulting images suggest natural and biological forms emanating specificity and sacred geometry.” (Artist’s statement)
  • Rebecca Bird contributed two acrylic, oil, pencil, and pastel paintings on canvas: "Five Women" and "Niche Communication.” Originally from Seattle and currently residing in New York, Bird explains the inspiration behind her series: "Works from my series 'Circles' show groups of diverse women gathered in groups. The work is inclusive, warm, thought-provoking, and appropriate to the wide range of visitors to the airport who may visit the D Concourse Restroom." (Artist’s statement)
  • Sijia Chen’s artwork "Twin Peaks" is a mixed-media piece that incorporates unconventional materials such as immigration forms, magazines, photographs, restaurant menus, acrylic, and canvas. Chen's work explores societal norms, disruptions, inclusion, and otherness, using a dynamic quality and a collage approach. “These materials imply motifs and narratives, without narrowing the viewer’s focus solely to their presence or contents. They create visual depth, texture, and context.” (Artist’s statement)
  • Kerstin Graudins’ artwork "Ade' (Portrait of Ade' Connere)" is a serigraph on paper. Graudins, who grew up in California and Spokane and now calls Seattle home, expresses her aesthetic choices and drawing style, which are characterized by patterns, geometric shapes, and layers of colors. Her aim is to spread positivity surrounding the LGBTQIA+ community, and she creates prints that celebrate her favorite Seattle queer icons.

The following artworks were acquired through local galleries:

  • DecorativeEmily Counts, a local artist, created "Seashell is calling." This artwork, acquired thanks to studio e gallery, was one of the first ceramic pieces purchased by the Port of Seattle. In this self-portrait Counts celebrates the aesthetic maximalism and intrinsic magic of her grandmothers, while also contemplating her present body and identity as an artist. “I am inviting a sense of optimism and power to the aging process. I especially put attention and care into the clothing worn by this figure, focusing on embellishment, pattern, color, and symmetry. Like ornamental objects and heirlooms, the garments become not simply a necessity, but an opportunity for joy.” (Artist’s statement)
  • Laurie Hogin, a renowned artist, contributed two paintings to the collection. "Ode to Romantic Love (Still Life with Beautiful Peaches, Queer Melons and Wrathful Grapes)" and "Allegory of American Fragility (Still Life with Fourth of July Cake)” were purchased from Koplin Del Rio, a Seattle gallery. These allegorical paintings explore human experiences and impulses in the current social, political, and environmental context. As you make eye contact with the two mutant bunnies, also notice the artist-made frames.

These three artworks were acquired through the Greg Kucera Gallery:

  • Humaira Abid, originally from Pakistan, submitted two carved wood sculptures: "Folded Stories: second series I" and "Folded Stories: second series V." Her work challenges social issues and stereotypes by presenting everyday objects in unconventional ways. “I feel objects are like people. They can tell you where they come from; they can have personality and evoke emotion” (from the artist’s website). Abid's sculptures bring a woman's voice and perspective to the traditionally male-dominated medium of wood.
  • DecorativeJoey Veltkamp, a talented local artist, created a vibrant quilt (referred to as a “soft painting”) titled "50 Sunsets." This piece features colorful semi-circles representing each year of the artist's life. It tells a personal story of growth and transformation. “The main gist of this piece was: depressed guy doesn't think he's gonna make it to 40, gets therapy, meets his husband, stabilizes his life, becomes boring and gets into gardening, now they have five cats (and 2 kids, lol) and life is happy and every day/year is a celebration.” — Joey Veltkamp

The next two artworks were submitted by PDX Contemporary Art, located in Portland, Oregon:

  • Jeffry Mitchell’s "Black Flower #1" is a lithograph on Gampi paper. Mitchell describes the artwork as follows: "When you look through a kaleidoscope, a chaotic array is reflected and mirrored along an axis. The mirroring organizes the chaos into a 'body' like bodies. The 'Black Flowers' exploit these material qualities and visual phenomena to organize stream of conscious drawings into radiant images." (Artist’s statement)
  • DecorativeIván Carmona’s "Rayitos del Sol" is pigment on ceramic. Carmona shares, "As a boy, I learned about Modernism through magazines and TV documentaries. It was there that I was introduced to the work of Isamu Noguchi and Alexander Calder, and began to recognize their forms in the natural world around me. The mountains and forests of Puerto Rico became sculptural constructions and swaying mobiles in my mind, and through my own visual language, I hope to communicate these intimate moments in a manner accessible to a larger audience." (Artist’s statement)

We extend our sincere gratitude to the architects, project, and design team involved for their invaluable support in presenting and protecting these extraordinary artworks. Their expertise and dedication have played a crucial role in creating a space that not only showcases the diverse talents of the artists but also ensures the long-term preservation and enjoyment of these remarkable pieces. Their commitment to integrating art into the airport environment has truly enhanced the overall experience for passengers and visitors alike.

DecorativeThe artwork displayed on the salon-style wall creates an interactive experience, inviting passengers and employees to engage with the artworks and reflect on the diverse experiences of the LGBTQIA+ community. By encouraging conversations and raising awareness, the restroom becomes a catalyst for positive change and greater understanding among all travelers. This new restroom is also a testament to the airport’s commitment to providing facilities that meet the needs of every individual, regardless of their gender identity. As we continue to strive for inclusivity in all aspects of society, let’s embrace the power of art to create meaningful connections and foster understanding.

Whether you are a traveler passing through SEA or a member of the local community, take a moment to appreciate this unique and inspiring space on the D Concourse. It’s a reminder that every individual deserves to be seen, respected, and celebrated for who they are.

Remember to capture the beauty of these artworks and share them on social media, tagging us @FlySEA and using the hashtag #PublicArt@SEA. Let’s spread the message of respect, inclusivity, and pride together!

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