Of the estimated $5 million in public art commissions expected to be generated along the new Seattle central waterfront over the next seven years, five artists have been selected so far. The New York-based firm James Corner Field Operations (JFCO) is in charge of the overall design of the waterfront. (JCFO famously did the High Line in New York City.)

"In general, the idea is to keep the vocabulary of the materials not bucolic, to preserve a marine/port character," said waterfront art manager Eric Fredericksen.

The largest and most prominent permanent commission was awarded today to Ann Hamilton. Her designs will be ready for review sometime in late 2014 or early 2015, and the call for that commission was international.

Here's a rundown of the other four artists. Budgets include design, fabrication, delivery, installation, travel, fees, taxes, and any other project-related costs.

Artist : Buster Simpson

Location : A new beach at water's edge between Yesler Way and Washington Street

Budget : $330,000

Scope of the call : United States

Timeline : Preliminary designs are in discussion; construction dependent on SDOT

What it is : Anthropocene Beach

Simpson, whose first public art project ever was at Woodstock and who was the subject of a major retrospective at the Frye Art Museum last year, is the best kind of rabble rouser. He's been using the changing conditions of downtown Seattle as his medium since the 1970s, making him a natural choice for the new waterfront.

His spot is a human-made beach west of Pioneer Square. He's proposing a few projects for the site. One is a series of sculptures of reinforced-concrete tetrapods that embrace bunches of reclaimed tree root wads and driftwood. Resting on the jetties and shoreline of the beach, the woods will be susceptible to the tides and decompose slowly. As they decompose, they're a habitat. Simpson installed a version of this idea in the Frye's reflecting pool last year, which you could see as you walked into the museum.

In utilitarian land engineering, tree root wads are tethered to a heavy conglomerate material and set at shorelines to keep them firm. But the conglomerate materials are hidden underwater, making the prone tree roots look naturally occurring. Simpson wants to make the opposite impression.

His are "omens that nothing is natural out there, really," he said in a phone interview.

Ironically, Simpson's run into purism: the city and Army Corps of Engineers won't allow Simpson's proposed human-made materials—the concrete tetrapods—because of code requirements for habitat beach.

"The agency wants to keep the materials on the beach natural," SDOT environmental manager Mark Mazzola explained in an interview. "Nobody's pretending they're restoring the shoreline to the way it was before European settlement or anything like that."

But Simpson's being asked to move his art landward, or change his materials. "I'm hoping they will let us use sculptural stone anchors," Simpson said. "I wanna get this right."

He's also proposing an armature in the shape of a petri dish and a Salish woven basket that will accrete marine life over time. It's meant to be submerged in the water most of the time, emerging only occasionally to reveal its changing mini-ecosystem.

Side note: When the Seattle Office of Arts and Culture refers to a "permanent" work of art, the standard for permanent is 30 years. At the end of that time, if the art's still in good working order, it simply remains in the collection. If it's damaged or having problems, the agency revisits whether to keep it. This is how Simpson's root wads could be decomposing and "permanent" at the same time.

Artist : Norie Sato

Location : The Union Avenue corridor connecting the waterfront and First Avenue

Budget : $200,000

Scope of call : US and Canada

Timeline : Design review fall 2014; construction dependent on SDOT

What it is : TBD

Norie Sato doesn't yet know what she's making for the Union Street corridor linking the water to First Avenue, but she probably knows the southern waterfront as well as anybody. She had a studio down there for 37 years, most spent in the 619 Western building, which was condemned and closed in 2011 to make way for the underground tunnel.

But her connection to Seattle goes even farther back. In 1992, when she was commissioned to make a temporary installation for a high-profile city project called "In Public," she did some research, and discovered that the ship she and her parents rode in to this country from Japan when she was 5 years old was berthed right across the street from her studio.

They moved directly to Michigan, and she didn't return to Seattle until graduate school. For "In Public," she mounted glass screens at water's edge, printed with ghost images referring to her memory and history. Where is that piece now?

"It's in my yard," she said in an interview. Such is the plight of artists. But Sato has many enduring projects up around the city and country, including art along the Central Link light rail line in Seattle and at the San Francisco and Miami airports.

The Union Street corridor is narrow—just a street wide—and bounded by untouchable private property on both sides. To get ideas, she walks the area. "I'm kind of excited about the confined nature, which focuses one's view both up and down," she said. But the most striking part of the waterfront is its light.

"At my studio, when you looked out in winter, there was a wall of white and gray," she said. "In the summer, the western light is very, very strong. I used to notice even the reflection of the sun on the water would come into my studio and go all the way to the back wall probably 60 feet inside the building. You could still see the sparkling water and the shadows of boats going by on the wall. It was phenomenal. I'm thinking, Is there a way I could capture that?"

Artist : Stephen Vitiello

Location : TBD

Budget : $200,000

Scope of call : US and Canada

Timeline : Design review fall 2014; construction dependent on SDOT

What it is : TBD

Sound artists are underdogs—"It's like being a poet in the literary world," Vitiello said in an interview from his home in Richmond, Virginia, where he's associate professor of kinetic imaging at Virginia Commonwealth University.

"I'm definitely an artist who begins and ends with listening," he said.

In 2010, he installed A Bell for Every Minute on the High Line in New York City. The piece played 59 bells from five speakers, one every minute, and on the hour, they all played together. He recorded them around New York—at churches and temples, on a cat's collar—and created a map if you wanted to go visit them all.

The bells were a callback to a piece he originally made in 1999, when he had a studio high up in the World Trade Center for six months. Unable to open the windows, he attached mics to them to bring the outdoor sound inside, and to his surprise the first thing he heard was a church bell. Later, after 9/11, the meaning of the piece shifted. (Likewise with the High Line project: the cat died, a church was leveled.)

For Seattle, Vitiello considered somehow inverting the legendary, record-breaking noise that roars out of CenturyLink Field when the Seahawks play. But it might become dated, he figured. He hasn't yet found any local sound "true enough" to become a field recording capable of playing at the waterfront for the next 30 years, so he's considering acoustic options, maybe something played by the elements.

"I had a meeting with an architect at the site, and he said, 'Why make water sounds when we already have water?' I was like, no, I'm not making water sounds," Vitiello said, "but wondering whether the water or the wind can play the sound."

Vitiello's history is a cross between experimental electronic music, conceptual art, and video art. He's collaborated with famous artists and his own works are collected by museums including the Museum of Modern Art. He started making public art seven years ago: the first piece lasted five days, the next a year, then five, and now this. Location is the major complication in Seattle. Pier 62/63 is quietest, but Ann Hamilton's commission takes first priority there. A new restaurant or a side-show barker can change everything.

Vitiello's style is understated. He loves Max Neuhaus's enduring sounds emanating from a subway grate in Times Square, first installed in the 1970s, which waft upward—but you can miss them. He said, "If I create a piece in Seattle in which wind is activating sound, for example, and it just makes somebody momentarily more aware of the air brushing against their skin, then hopefully I've done something that gives them a different sense of the place other than it's a beautiful place to watch sunsets or buy running shoes or go to the aquarium."

Artist : Oscar Tuazon

Location : TBD

Budget : TBD

Scope of call : N/A

Timeline : TBD; construction dependent on SDOT

What it is : TBD

Oscar Tuazon was one of five finalists for the million-dollar commission, and he didn't win—Ann Hamilton did—but the committee liked his presentation so much that they asked the city to find him another spot. The city agreed, and Tuesday decided to award him a design contract for a proposal. In the coming months he'll "find a location (or possibly multiple locations) for a significant work," said Office of Arts and Culture spokeswoman Calandra Childers.

Tuazon lives in Los Angeles now. But when he stands at the edge of the Seattle waterfront and looks out, he's imagining the Port Madison Indian Reservation where he grew up, north across Puget Sound. In high school, he studied Lushootseed, and met a man who hadn't spoken it in 85 years. He'd like to have some of the first conversations regarding his commission with tribal members. (He's not a member of the Suquamish tribe; his heritage does include the East Coast Lenape tribe.)

Tuazon is a sculptor. His works are architectural but human-scale. Always human-scale. Outdoors at the Venice Biennale, he made two structures you could walk inside, one dark and cave-like, another open like a lit stage. You could rest in quiet there in the midst of the international art festivalism, or you could perform.

At the Museum Ludwig in Cologne, Germany, he erected a replica of the museum's entrance revolving door—but up on the roof, out in the open, where there's no interior or exterior to revolve between. At the Brooklyn Bridge Park, his temporary trio of sculptures combined upright tree trunks and concrete forms to create person-sized forts and small ball courts.

"A sculpture," he said during his interview with the Seattle committee on March 13, "is a thing with its own life. What's a sculpture for? If there's one question I keep asking myself, that’s it. What is a sculpture for? The paradox is that a sculpture is by definition a useless thing, a useless object. But to me, above all, a sculpture is something you use. I'm not exactly sure what it's used for, but… I guess one way to answer that question is that a sculpture is something that invents new uses, new functions, propositions. A sculpture is a thing that proposes itself. A sculpture is an open question."

In the parking lot of the now-defunct Sodo art space Western Bridge, Oscar Tuazon and his brother Eli Hansen built a steel-and-concrete open enclosure that looked like it was waiting for walls to be installed. They called it Use It For What It's Used For. I always thought the title meant that whatever you used it for, that was its use. Now I think it was more mysterious than that. Even the artist doesn't necessarily know what it's used for. Only the sculpture knows. It's still in the possession of Seattle collectors Bill and Ruth True. recommended