Imagine Art On These Seattle Grain Silos | KUOW News and Information

Imagine Art On These Seattle Grain Silos

Sep 28, 2015

  You see it everywhere in Seattle.

Hammering Man.

The dance steps on Broadway.

The Fremont Troll.

This city is known around the world for its public art.

Now a citizens’ group wants to see art on the huge white cement grain silos at Pier 86 on the Elliott Bay waterfront between Magnolia and Queen Anne.

Betty Winfield of Belltown spearheads this campaign. The retired University of Missouri communications professor lives a couple blocks from the Olympic Sculpture Park. Winfield walks through the park and north up the waterfront path almost every day. One day she looked at the 68 grain silos that dominate the skyline and thought to herself, “We can do better than this!”

Winfield contacted the Port of Seattle, which owns the silos, to see if the Port would be willing to power wash the 45-year-old structure. She didn’t hear back.

A couple of months went by. Winfield got to talking with friends about not just sprucing up the silos but putting artwork on them. That’s not an original idea. Silos around the world carry art, from murals to light show projections.

Belltown resident Betty Winfield on the Seattle waterfront. Winfield has made it her mission to spruce up the grain silos -- not just by having them cleaned, but having them show art.
Credit KUOW Photo/Marcie Sillman

Winfield didn’t have a specific idea in mind for Seattle’s grain silos; she just wanted to beautify them. So she contacted the Port again. This time, the Port Commission agreed to sanction a public art feasibility study.

But the commissioners had a concern, according to Port spokesman Peter McGraw.

“We want to make sure there’s no impact on our tenant,” he said.

The Port rents the silos to grain exporter Louis Dreyfus Corp. McGraw said that relationship has been in place for many years. Dreyfus had also just extended its agreement with the Port.

Winfield and her group, Friends of Pier 86, say they don’t intend to hamper the grain export business. They just want prettier silos. The City of Seattle’s Department of Neighborhoods awarded the group a small grant to finance the feasibility study, which is currently underway.

Friends of Pier 86 will update the community at a public meeting at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 29 at the Olympic Sculpture Park pavilion.

The silo project now dominates Winfield’s life. It’s not exactly what she had in mind for her retirement.

“I thought I’d be sitting around having two-hour breakfasts and reading the papers,” she said laughing. “This is a full time job!”