As I walked the streets of Seattle these past couple of years, I came across a huge number of construction projects in various neighborhoods.
At the end of 2016, there were 61 cranes in the Seattle skyline. More than any other city in the country, in fact, more than New York and San Francisco combined.
I was inspired to develop a project depicting all the changes in our once quaint city. Then one day, while shooting at the Seattle landmark, Troy Laundry Building, I came upon a hand painted sign. The sign read, "Co-Mingle".
I thought the construction company was encouraging the community to "co-mingle", to all get along during yet another development project in South lake Union. I was intrigued.
Later that evening, I thought maybe I could ask this construction company if I could photograph inside the curtained fences, to "co-mingle" with the crew, instead of shooting through the links of the fences.
I went out and purchased a couple of hard hats. My friend, Sarah Littlefield and I went down to the Troy Block and asked a few of the guys on the crew if we could get inside the curtained fences. After several "No's!", I asked to speak with the head of the crew, Ron McDonnel. After a safety class and a promise not to get injured, Safety Coordinator, Josh Ditzenberger led us through the gate.
From the moment I stepped inside the curtained fences, I was awestruck. We climbed down close to one hundred feet of scaffolding into a giant pit that took up an entire city block.
The experience was surreal.
I had expected chaos and destruction, but what I saw was a beautifully orchestrated operation. I knew then that I had to see more. What I had just experienced did not support my opinion about the construction taking place in our city.
After a few visits, I came to find the true meaning of the "Co-Mingle" sign. It was not a community outreach message. "Co-Mingle" referred to the place on the site that acts more or less like a trash pit, an area where unused materials are discarded, then sifted through, and whenever possible recycled.
I went there to shoot because I thought the sign was for community outreach when it was really just a dumpster.
Luckily, it was on that very day, Josh told me I could keep the company construction vest, safety glasses, and gloves for future visits. In that moment, I felt like I was part of the crew.
Shortly after the thrill came my dilemma. I started the project disliking the demolition of the old buildings and the destruction of the neighborhoods, and now I was starting to respect the other side, amidst a city wide heated debate between those who love the new and those who cherish the quaint and the familiar. I was witness to the human side of the construction world, and as a result, I was able to see a positive side to development.
This project captivated me for the greater part of three years. I have lost count of the number of times I returned to the site. The crew welcomed me over and over again as an outsider, to come to their space, and photograph their world. Their pride in their work and their dedication to their trade radically impacted me.
They invited me to the topping off party which is a celebration when the building structure is complete, and it was there I received permission from Shawn Parry, co-founder of Touchstone, to have a show at the Troy Block.
Project: Co-Mingle is not just an art show. It is an experience. I wanted the community to know the Troy Block, to walk through this SUPERBLOCK as the architects had intended. The Troy Block brings together Seattle's past, present and future in a way to be celebrated - preserving 1920’s landmarks, Troy Laundry and the Boren Investment while addressing a real solution to our present homeless crisis with five new FareStart eateries funded by Amazon in the two towers inhabited by Amazon.
Thanks to the 65 Kickstarter donors, including the Lear Family Foundation, and additional financial backing from developers Touchstone, NW, the Project: Co-Mingle show was successfully presented on May 3, 2018 in the Troy Block Arcade. The FareStart restaurant, Maslow's did an amazing job catering and local event services, PNTA helped build and strike the rigging for the four large panels.
Check out my blog to learn more about Project: Co-Mingle and the Troy Block.