Local art on Ellensburg bus shelters

Mary Park, Scene Editor

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Mary Park

Your wait for the bus will soon be embellished with a taste of local art. Artwork by 10 artists with connections to Kittitas County, CWU or both, will be installed on new bus shelters around Ellensburg by spring 2020. 

Gregg Schlanger is the chair of art and design department at CWU who was on the selection panel for the Ellensburg Arts Commission. According to Schlanger, among the artwork, nine out of 10 artists are CWU alumni, current students or lecturers in the art and design department.


Justin Beckman

Justin Beckman, CWU alum and assistant professor in graphic design, said he is excited to have his work installed onto a bus shelter. 

“It’s really cool as an artist and designer to be able to have your work not only shown in a public space, but a public space that is going to be there for an extended period of time,” Beckman said.

Beckman said that for several years, he’d been working on a body of work called, “How the West Was Won,” which consists of found images from different time periods that have been combined and juxtaposed to create new historic documents. The artwork selected for the bus shelter is an extension of that work.

“It recontextualizes the meaning of those images, while also bringing into question about the accuracy of the original document,” Beckman said. “Connecting with traditions within our community both from the perspective of who the Native Americans were when we arrived but also connecting to our cowboy heritage of this community, while questioning some of the meanings contained therewithin.” 

Beckman, who has lived in Ellensburg since 2001, said one thing he appreciates about the city is the valley and the landscape around Ellensburg.

“I love the fact that we have four seasons, we have amazing hiking and camping all around. I love the river that runs through the valley,” Beckman said.


Krista Kok

Currently a senior in graphic design and art director of Pulse Magazine, Krista Kok’s piece shows a playful image of mountains and hills, windmills, cows and a UFO.

“I like it when people look at [my work] and just smile and be like, ‘that’s funny,’” Kok said.

As a graphic designer who also paints, Kok said she wanted to focus more on illustration and use inspiration from the 1960s and 1970s psychedelic rock posters.

“I really like neon pastel-ly colors and I use that in a lot of my work so I picked up one of my color palettes I have on my computer,” Kok said. “I wanted it to be bright and kind of fun.”

Kok said that having public art in everyday places in the community can help people appreciate art more and open the door to the artist’s world.

“I really like to do art for the community as much as I can,” Kok said. “Being accepted, I was really excited and I felt honored to be able to contribute to the community.”

Mary Park

Tara Pillai

Tara Pillai, a recent Bachelor of Fine Arts graduate, recalled the moment she received an email with the news that her artwork was selected.

Pillai had been home sitting on the couch, spending time with her friends. 

“I just got a notification from someone and I read it, and I had to read it like three times to understand, [and I thought] ‘it actually got in?’” Pillai said. “And at first, I was just jumping up and down and my friends were like, ‘What happened, what happened?’”

Pillai said she had doubted her artwork would be selected.

“I just thought my artwork was not good enough, you know,” Pillai said. “And so when that email came, I was like oh my gosh, I did it. I pushed myself and I did it.”

Pillai explained that she tried to paint Ellensburg landscape in terms of color and used molding paste to create texture.

“I took all of the emotions that I thought of when I saw Ellensburg in the summer and I basically tried to convey that in a painting,” Pillai said. “That’s why it’s very bright.”

The green portrays the farm fields and the blue depicts the sky and the pond at Irene Rinehart Riverfront Park. The orange represents “the most beautiful sunset” and the red, central Washington.

“I spend a lot of time at People’s Pond,” Pillai said. “During the days all summer, I [saw] the crisp blue sky, I took a lot of photos at that lake.  When I think of summer, I think of ‘hey let’s go to the pond and hang out.’”

Pillai said there isn’t a single message in the painting; she simply wants people to look at it and enjoy it. 


Jerry Slough

Jerry Slough, a photographer and current graduate student in the art and design department, put together a collection of images for his piece.

“It’s a project that I started after coming to Ellensburg, leaving San Diego, leaving a life behind to come to grad school,” Slough said.

Slough asked his friends on Facebook to send him thoughts or images that would represent the friendship and history they each had with him.

“The most obvious images in the piece are a picture of Mason Ale Works in San Marcos, California,” Slough said. “That’s where a good friend of mine, we just had some fun times there.”

There is also an image of Tom Waits, a cat and a dog, about which Slough said, “the point is for them to be … less recognizable, but little points of interests to be peeked in.”

According to Slough, the photograph is representative of friendships, but in some ways they’re also self-portraits. 

“Looking back at these, ideas of memory and that kind of thing– photography has always been associated with memory, life and death, end and beginning,” Slough said. “I’m trying to bring them in together to this image.”

Slough’s range of work involves photograph prints and transferring them onto different substrates such as metal and plexiglass.

“I have this fascination with messing with the print to create a new image,” Slough said. 

He said he also plays around with the photo to create a painterly feel, which means to make the photo look like a painting.