The Art Inventory

Fremont Public Art Inventory, Part VIII: Tiles & Mosaics

by Kirby Lindsay, posted 10 May 2013 


The Fremont Canal Park viewing stand, as seen from the Lake Washington Ship Canal. Photo by K. Lindsay Aug '12

For the eighth installment of the Fremont Art Inventory, the focus is on four works involving tile.  Tile endures, but in the hands of Fremont artists it can also be used to incorporate a variety of features. 

Fremont Canal Park Mural 

Installed: 1981  Artists: Anita Fisk & Paul Lewing  The Seattle Department of Parks & Recreation built an ADA accessible viewing platform in the Fremont Canal Park, and installed a mural as part of it.  While built to give visitors a chance to see the canal, the platform has often, over the years, been used as a homeless encampment and/or unpatrolled party space.  The tile mural also remains one of Fremont’s very least known works, although one of the earliest.  Due to low foot traffic to the platform and the beauty of the water view that steals attention, the mural really doesn’t get much of an audience.  Location:  At the water’s edge, at 2nd Ave NW and NW Canal St. 

The tile mural at Fremont Canal Park, made by Anita Fisk and Paul Lewing. Photo by K. Lindsay, Mar '11

 B.F. Day Tile Mural 

Initial Panel Installed: April 18, 1995  Initial Artists: Veronica (MacKinnon) Truffat and Dave McKay, with tile by Steve Roach of Aruba Tile  “It was community art at its finest,” is how Truffat described the original portion of this multi-layered effort in 2010. 

Since 1995, the B.F. Day Elementary School Art Teacher has been in charge of creating another panel, with the students.  Teachers have chosen themes or specific art styles for the panels, or allowed a wild randomness that can display best the character of the individual contributors.

The B.F. Day Elementary School Tile Mural, created by dozens and dozens of art teachers and students down through the years. Photo by K. Lindsay, Jan '10

As Truffat also explained, “I love to show it to friends,” when they come to Seattle.  She has made it a challenge for her friends to find ‘her’ tile among the mosaics.  It is to be hoped that many years of B.F. Day graduates enjoy the same opportunity.  Location:  Starting at NE corner of Fremont Ave N and N 39th St – and up N 39th St.

Helen Tapp Memorial Bench

Installed:  between 1996 – 1998  Artist: Veronica Truffat  Designer: George Heideman, A.I.A.  Funded/Conceived by: Fremont Neighborhood Council (FNC)  Helen Tapp served with the FNC for many years, and she single-handedly held the all-volunteer organization together when membership fell off completely and the Board disbanded.  She kept the files together until, as happened, some residents expressed an interest in reestablishing the organization.

The Helen Tapp Bench, commissioned by the Fremont Neighborhood Council. Photo by Apr '11

Tapp also championed bus service along Fremont Avenue, between N 45th St and N 34th St.  After her passing, the FNC decided to honor her with a bench installed along the bus route METRO did install, for a short period of time.  The owner of Fremont Avenue Laundromat, Rupert Geister, gave his private property for the installation – and Veronica Truffaut installed the tile, putting the names of contributors all over the structure in the vine, the same as was done in the B.F. Day Tile Mural.  Location: Near SW corner of the intersection of N 43rd St and Fremont Ave N.

‘Courtyard Project’ (Mosaic paving at Red Triangle) 

The courtyard at Red Triangle, behind the Fremont Lenin statue, is a treasure trove of items to find in the grout of the tile. Photo by K. Lindsay, May '13

Installed: 1995  Lead Artist/Visionary: Bill Matthews of Fremont Drum School, with Jay Penrose, Steve Roach of Aruba Tile, and members of the Fremont community.  According to a source, off-the-record, the owners of Fremont Hemp Co also contributed.  According to Matthews, the courtyard mosaic, “was imagined while standing on top of the building.” 

In the early 1990s, Fremont Texaco – a gas station and auto repair shop – was converted into to a collection of retail/restaurant storefronts.  Matthews owned one of the first tenants, Little Village.  He conceived of the courtyard plan, although it did not, at that time, include a platform for temporary art exhibits on which the statue of Lenin currently stands.  It did include a fountain which would be removed, after Matthews’ time, when disuse and deterioration made it a hazard.

The 'Courtyard Project' contains many interesting details, including these faces on the wall near where a fountain originally sat. Photo by K. Lindsay, May '13

The ‘treasures’ installed in the grout came through community-wide invites to contribute, and many installation parties.  Everyone put their junk in the cracks and grooves, and if you are missing keys from the early 1990s, chances are they are there.  Like with the B.F. Day Mural, this project ended up involving dozens and dozens of community contributors who can return, again and again, to revisit their ‘work.’  Location:  At the triangle point of the intersection of N 36th St, Fremont Place N and Evanston Ave N – behind the Lenin statue.

Tile does endure, although the Helen Tapp bench has experienced damage.  Still, these works endure through vandalism and, worse, a serious lack of interest.  What may endure even more than the tile is the appreciation of a public – like that in Fremont – that can value the beauty and charm created by having art as part of the surroundings.

Related Articles 

Previous Inventories 


©2013 Kirby Lindsay.  This column is protected by intellectual property laws, including U.S. copyright laws.  Reproduction, adaptation or distribution without permission is prohibited. 

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