Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Public Art Installed on WSECU Parking Garage

Above: Workers install public artwork on the Washington State Employees Credit Union parking garage on 10th and Jefferson in downtown Olympia this week. The work is by internationally known artist Christian Moeller.

By Janine Gates
Little Hollywood

What are they? Bottle caps? Marshmallows? 

And what is that design? Hubcaps? Film reels? For some, its hard to tell. But back up and look at it from another angle, and you may see something different.

Whatever you see, the parking garage owned by the Washington State Employees Credit Union (WSECU) in downtown Olympia has received an artistic makeover.

Located across the street from the Olympia post office on 10th and Jefferson, the six story building has been “naked” for several years.

Tempered glass panels which originally surrounded the brick building to better obscure the sight of vehicles in the garage were removed after one spontaneously exploded on a hot day in August, 2013. For safety reasons, all the panels were removed.

After an investigation, it was determined that there were impurities in the glass making process.

Staff admitted in a 2013 Little Hollywood story that the garage was pretty ugly without the panels, and the city expected the credit union to get the building back to a state of being more visually appealing.

At long last, after a public process involving credit union members, staff, and neighbors, international artist Christian Moeller was chosen as the finalist to create the new exterior design.

Moeller is a professor and department chair of Design Media Arts at the University of California, Los Angeles.

According to his biography, Moeller is an artist “working with contemporary media technologies to produce innovative and intense physical events, realized from handheld objects to architectural scale installations. Over the past two decades, his body of work represented one of the original and most complex investigations of what is possible to be revealed by the intersections of cinema, computation, music and physical space.”

Above: Looking northeast, the Washington State Employee Credit Union (WSECU) parking garage as seen from the roof of the WSECU building on Union Avenue in downtown Olympia. The artwork by Christian Moeller is titled, Buttons.

The artwork is 42 feet tall and covers the WSECU parking structure over a surface of approximately 24,000 square feet. The “canvas” of the artwork is made of galvanized chain-link fence and mounted with the help of vertical tension cables in 12’ wide panels.

A total of 235,000 white “pixels” or disks made of injection-molded vinyl are attached to the fence. Their contrast with the darker background of holes not filled by a disk form large images.

The artwork came in large, numbered panels in rolls wrapped in plastic. Workers were seen this week mounting the rolls from the top of the garage and securing them in place.

Moeller explored and mulled over a variety of thematic concepts around the credit union’s values of community, family, and connections, explained Ann Flannigan, vice president of public relations for the Washington State Employees Credit Union. 

Flannigan provided Little Hollywood a tour of the facility on Wednesday.

His work, titled “Buttons,” is inspired by the idea of a grandmother’s old button box, a treasure chest of disks, all with different patterns and shapes. 

Buttons evoke connectivity, fastening, holding, and the joining of two pieces of fabric. For us, that fabric is community....I’m hopeful it will be an iconic part of the Olympia landscape. Even though it’s our garage, it belongs to the community. We wanted to make it interesting to look at and enjoy,” said Flannigan.

Above: A close up of the artwork titled, Buttons, by Christian Moeller at the Washington State Employees Credit Union parking garage in downtown Olympia.

Editor’s Note, May 3: Asked to clarify the information gap between the 2013 Little Hollywood story that described a different proposed art design, Ann Flannigan, vice president of public relations for WSECU, responded:  

“Our Board of Directors considered several approaches for recladding the garage during the past few years.  The “art panels” concept was going to be married with replacement tempered glass panels. Ultimately, the Board asked for additional options from our developer for their consideration, and we were presented with Moeller’s approach, which they ultimately endorsed.

“Then new artwork didn’t go through a full design review process because city staff were of the opinion that it was substantially similar to the original design intent, which was our mandate.  WSECU received approval for this latest concept when presented to the city in 2016.” 

Also, artist Christian Moeller is a professor and department chair of Design Media Arts at the University of California, Los Angeles, not Berkeley, as originally reported. 

Little Hollywood appreciates the clarifications.

For more information about the design review process and building history, Little Hollywood wrote a story, “WSECU Proposes Garage Art Wall Installation,” on December 13, 2013, at