An artist’s conception of the proposed sculpture to be placed in the pedestrian plaza of the incoming Federal Way Link Extension. The idea has since been scrapped.

An artist’s conception of the proposed sculpture to be placed in the pedestrian plaza of the incoming Federal Way Link Extension. The idea has since been scrapped.

Artist Donald Lipski meets with Federal Way residents to discuss Sound Transit artwork

The original idea featured an elephant standing on a tree with a blue heron on its trunk.

Residents had a chance last week to virtually meet, greet and learn about the vision of artist Donald Lipski for the Sound Transit Federal Way Link Extension plaza sculpture.

Lipski’s original design for the plaza artwork included a three-and-a-half-story sculpture of an elephant standing on two legs on a tree with a blue heron on its trunk, which drew controversy from residents and city leaders. The outpour of commentary caused project leaders to rescind the design and send Lipski back to the drawing board.

More than 40 Federal Way residents joined the meeting with Sound Transit’s art program (STart) leaders on Dec. 9, including four Federal Way City Council members and several arts commissioners.

During the meeting, Lipski discussed several artwork case studies on his projects during his 30-year career and how they evolved with stakeholder and community input.

His prior, and most notable work, includes a Dalmatian balancing a taxi on its nose for New York City’s Children’s Hospital, an abstracted 60-feet 6-inch high baseball for the Cleveland Indians practice center, and an in-process artwork for the Philadelphia Public Services Building featuring a 9-foot-tall badge covered with thousands of Philadelphia Police Department badges.

For the Federal Way project, Lipski validated some of the concerns, such as the dead tree trunk reflecting poorly on the city and acknowledged the concern about the elephant’s pose being associated with circus animal cruelty.

The elephant, Lipski said, was a metaphor for the city’s impressive diversity with many groups who are living in Federal Way having their own relationship with elephants, and the inclusion of the heron as a symbol for different species living peaceably together.

Councilmembers on the line reiterated their opposition to the elephant sculpture idea, along with a few community members, and requested artwork that feels more “elegant.”

Lipski said he will not design a piece that the community does not want, but he also light-heartedly warned, as with any public art installation, that not everyone will love the final artwork design either.

Audience members brought forth suggestions for possible concepts including native Northwest animals. Community members also encouraged Lipski to keep the whimsical spirit found in his artwork.

In the coming months, Lipski will focus on a conservative weight and mass design of the foundation for the eventual piece as it is the most time-critical element for station construction integration.

The artwork concept and design itself has more time to develop because it will not be installed until 2024.

Federal Way community members are encouraged to fill out Sound Transit’s “Who is Federal Way?” survey to help both Lipski and the STart team develop a sense of the local community.

A new artwork concept is expected to be presented by Lipski in late 2021. To learn more about Donald Lipski, visit

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