Gathering Tales Of Seattle's Quirky Fremont Bridge Most artists in residence don't wind up in a tower overlooking Seattle's Fremont Bridge. But that's where artist Kristen Ramirez is spending the summer. Guy Raz talks with Ramirez about her summer task: creating a public art project about one of those bridges that people love — and love to hate.
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Gathering Tales Of Seattle's Quirky Fremont Bridge

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Gathering Tales Of Seattle's Quirky Fremont Bridge

Gathering Tales Of Seattle's Quirky Fremont Bridge

Gathering Tales Of Seattle's Quirky Fremont Bridge

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/105724466/105724442" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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Most artists in residence don't wind up in a tower overlooking Seattle's Fremont Bridge. But that's where artist Kristen Ramirez is spending the summer. Guy Raz talks with Ramirez about her summer task: creating a public art project about one of those bridges that people love — and love to hate.

JOE (ph): Hi, this is Joe. I love the bridge. I proposed to my wife on it, because she's a Seattle girl. And I couldn't think of anything more memorable than the Fremont Bridge.

GUY RAZ, host:

That phone message about Seattle's Fremont Bridge is one of the many that have been left recently for the bridge's, get this, artist in residence. That's right, the Fremont Bridge has its own resident artist and she's on the line with us. Hello, Kristen Ramirez?

Ms. KRISTEN RAMIREZ (Resident Artist, Fremont Bridge): Hello.

RAZ: Where are you right now?

Ms. RAMIREZ: I'm sitting in the northeast tower of Seattle's Fremont Bridge.

RAZ: For those of us who aren't locals, can you describe what the Fremont Bridge is and where it is?

Ms. RAMIREZ: Sure. It's pretty centrally located within the city of Seattle and it joins two neighborhoods, Queen Anne and Fremont. And it's a very lively bridge. It's heavily trafficked all day long.

(Soundbite of a blaring horn)

Ms. RAMIREZ: Sorry, that's the bridge talking to us now.

(Soundbite of laughter)

RAZ: So right now, that horn we just heard, I mean, that's - these are sounds that you're hearing all day long.

Ms. RAMIREZ: That's right. So that's - the five short honks from the bridge operator indicate to a large sailboat that's wanting the bridge to go up right now that it has to wait 10 minutes because it's got too much traffic.

RAZ: Give us a sense of spending a lot of time in that tower. You don't live there, but you do spend a lot of time there, is that right?

Ms. RAMIREZ: That's right. Yeah, I can't live here. It's a little like camping. There's no water. There's no bathroom.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. RAMIREZ: There are certain hours I can't be here because they're doing bridge maintenance. So, I come from roughly nine to four, three days a week.

RAZ: And so you're charged with creating some kind of art installation. What's your project?

Ms. RAMIREZ: Well, it's tentative at this point. But right now, I'm really interested in doing an audio piece, probably accessible by telephone...

RAZ: Mm.

Ms. RAMIREZ: ...ideally for the people waiting for the bridge when it's up, for the cyclists and pedestrians, and all types of cars and trucks, and such, that would feature little bits of narrative, little interviews, words and such. And then, I've been collecting all the sounds that the bridge makes, and that the horns of the boats make, and that the bridge operator makes. And it's kind of a noisy place, so there's lots of sounds to be collected.

RAZ: So, you've opened a phone line for people to call and share their memories about the bridge. Can you tell us about some of your favorite stories you've heard?

Ms. RAMIREZ: Sure. A man who is quite charismatic called to tell the story of how he proposed to his wife on the Fremont Bridge.

JOE: I didn't know at that time that she was nervous on bridges. So she finally said, hurry up, so we can get off this bridge. And I said, will you marry me? She said, yes, let's go. And we've been happily married for 17 years.

Ms. RAMIREZ: And there's another message that I really like from a man named Scott Church(ph). He called to tell the story of his father.

Mr. SCOTT CHURCH: My dad operated a charter boat business, and he had an 82-foot yacht. And he got so tired of waiting for the bridge to go up that one time he got frustrated, and he went up and he sawed off the top six feet of the mast so that he wouldn't have to wait for the bridge to go up anymore.

Ms. RAMIREZ: And my favorite message so far has been a man calling to tell the story of an elderly woman - I'm not sure of her age - who for years had entertained the idea of actually riding the bridge as the leaves of the bridge went up. And on her birthday, the wise, old woman figured out to hide in one of the steel girders out of the sightlines of the bridge operator, so that when it actually went up, she could stay in place and ride the bridge.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. RAMIREZ: That's been my favorite story.

RAZ: Kristen Ramirez is the artist in residence inside the Fremont Bridge in Seattle, Washington. Ms. Ramirez, thanks for joining us.

Ms. RAMIREZ: Thanks for having me.

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