Ever feel existential while looking at a bus?
Ever feel existential while looking at a bus? Courtesy of Sound Transit

If you've done a double-take over what appears to be a work of art on the side of a King County Metro bus recently, you didn't imagine it. Last week, the Henry Art Gallery in the University District launched their latest show, Set in Motion. This "city-wide" public art exhibition puts local and national artists' work on the side of various Seattle buses across the city.

Shamim M. Momin, director of curatorial affairs at the Henry, told me over the phone that the show was their way of "bringing our exhibition site out into the world." The project comes after the Henry wisely opted not to reopen their building this year due to the pandemic.

After canceling their slate of in-person arts programming for the fall, the museum still had ad space reserved on King County Metro buses, which they believed could serve as an exciting site for public art. Upon receiving a donation of additional placement space on the public bus system, the idea was, ahem, set in motion.

There are ten artists included in the project—five local to the Pacific Northwest (Marin Burnett, Natalie Dupille, Rafael Soldi, Nina Vichayapai, and Crystal Worl) and five national (Gabriella Sanchez & Se Young Au, Fay Ray, Nikita Gale, Genevieve Gaignard, and Amir H. Fallah, all of whom reside in Los Angeles).

The museum asked each artist to interpret the exhibition's name—"set in motion"—and what movement might look like during this socially distant moment.

Momin said the curatorial team looked for pieces that balanced intricacy and legibility. After all, buses are moving objects. The work had to reflect the unexpectedness of its context while also standing out from all the regular visual clutter our eyes encounter upon leaving our houses.

Each artist received six spaces on the sides of KC Metro buses for 60 placements in total and will be placed "on view" on public buses until February 2021. You can read more about each artist here, and be sure to keep an eye out during your quarantine walks—you might spot something beautiful. (If you catch one of these pieces of art driving past you, please send me a pic!)

This Slog post is part of State of the Arts, a new series that looks at the creative ways Seattle's arts communities are overcoming our darkest winter—like turning a bus into an art exhibition. Check Slog daily for fresh updates.