Monday, March 24, 2014

Beaverton Interactivator

Every time TriMet opens a new transit line, the agency buys public art for each station on the new line, which eventually results in a new series of blog posts here. They tend to patronize local artists, and seem to gravitate to weird stuff, not always of the highest quality, which makes this an interesting sort of project. I've primarily covered the Green and Yellow Lines so far, but I think TriMet's done this on every MAX line except for the original eastside Blue Line, and they already have a few pieces up for the upcoming Orange line. It turns out they also did this for the WES commuter rail line between Beaverton and Wilsonville. Unlike MAX, there are just a handful of WES stations along the line, and all of the art pieces along it are by the same designers.

The program was guided by an Art Advisory Committee composed of representatives from every station area. The committee selected artists Frank Boyden and Brad Rude to develop artwork for the stations.

Boyden and Rude created a series of five sculptures, called Interactivators, for the five commuter rail stations. Each sculpture features moveable, cast-bronze heads and a vehicle mounted to a stainless-steel table. The heads, which appear in different guises at each of the stations, symbolize a wide range of emotions, traits and conditions. Like the cross section of humanity that may be found on any train car, these sculpted archetypes serve as a metaphor for the human experience. The bronze vehicles each carry a sculpted scene of an animal representative of the station area where they are located.

The figures and vehicles are attached to the tables in a way that allows them to move within "tracks" cut into the surface of the table. The sculptures, in addition to being unique works of art, offer a potential game that can be played by one person or an entire station full of people. There are no winners or losers, but rather opportunities for infinite encounters that can create social connection, offer insight or produce a simple moment of pleasure.

The one shown here is the Beaverton Interactivator, at the WES station at Beaverton Transit Center. I didn't try to play with it, and nobody else at the station seemed inclined to give it a whirl just then either. The Oregonian's transportation reporter thought they were kind of creepy, and included close up photos to illustrate his point. He may have a valid argument there, though I don't really see a Middle Earth connection. If anything it's more of a Tim Burton look, which may or may not be a good thing.

I only managed one photo of the Interactivator before the train arrived. I'd never ridden WES before, because it goes somewhere I don't need to go, and only at times I don't need to go there, so I had to make a special trip just to ride it to Wilsonville and back. I've included a couple of bonus photos of the train too, for the probable majority of you who haven't ridden it either. It was actually a nice ride, certainly quieter and roomier than MAX and not crowded at all, and the run is reasonably scenic once you're out of the industrial part of Beaverton. If you're in the OR 217 corridor, and need to get somewhere during rush hour, and can tolerate a commute option that isn't available at night, or on weekends, or in the middle of the day, I would happily and unreservedly recommend the WES train, versus slogging along in traffic on 217, or trying to bike safely through suburbia, or waiting for the rumored Tigard-Tualatin MAX line to arrive in the mid-2020s.

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