Local artist’s work beautifies transformation of Federal Way’s downtown

Federal Way resident barry johnson created an “Our Federal Way” mural to be displayed outside of the Sound Transit construction site of incoming link extension.

Federal Way resident barry johnson taught himself how to draw when he was a frequent commuter on public transit.

Now, his artwork will be soon displayed near the Sound Transit construction site in Federal Way to beautify the transformation process of the incoming Federal Way Link Extension.

As construction moves in, Sound Transit is showcasing artwork by local artists that reflects the beauty and diversity of Federal Way. Artwork from about a dozen local artists will be displayed along the 7.8-mile project corridor.

“We really look to include art in these public spaces and work with local artists,” said Scott Thompson, public information officer for Sound Transit. “For us, having art involved with our spaces gives them a sense of community and being part of the public landscape.”

One of the artists selected to create temporary art installations is 35-year-old johnson, a self-taught interdisciplinary artist,. His work is both a connection and a reflection of the community. (note: barry johnson does not capitalize his name)

His work has been showcased both locally, such as at the Museum of Flight, Pioneer Square, King Street Station and more, and he has also held residencies around the world in Mexico, Kauai and Argentina.

Recently, his talents graced the streets of Seattle as his artwork decorated the Black Lives Matter mural on the roadway of East Pine Street in the Capitol Hill neighborhood. The “E” in “Lives” depicts a teal background with purple, blue, yellow and coral colored shapes, while contributing to the larger message of ending racism, strengthening equality and diminishing oppression, he said.

“It’s a life statement,” johnson said of the mural. “We were all trying to say the thing that needs to be said, as loud as possible.”

Originally from Kansas, johnson moved to the area about nine years ago for a job with the American Red Cross in Tacoma. After about a year, he began working in a tech start-up as a data scientist. He took up mural making to “keep my head in flow because I was doing so much math.” Long bus commutes to Seattle for work helped his transition into art full-time.

“One of the foundations for me learning how to draw was all the time I spent on the bus commuting back and forth,” said johnson, who is currently in school for architecture. “When I was presented with the opportunity to work with Sound Transit for the expansion, it was amazing and just being able to go put some art up in the city that I live in was an even bigger thing.”

For the first local installation, johnson created a colorful, abstract 6-foot by 27-foot mural for the local community at large. The mural should be on display within the coming weeks.

“Across it, it says ‘our Federal Way,’ because we are starting to create a better sense of art coming out of Federal Way … it also speaks to us having something big coming into our city,” he said.

johnson is also planning to paint large portraits of Federal Way residents to be displayed along the outer fencing of the construction sites. His hope is to highlight diversity in ages, colors, sexual orientations and more to capture the multitude of people who call this city their home.

For the portraits, johnson is looking for 10 Federal Way community members who are willing to submit their photo for his portrait project in order to highlight the unique essence of those who call Federal Way home.

If interested, people are encouraged to send a picture of themselves from the shoulders up, not selfie style, with a candid, straightforward expression without smiling to info@barryjohnson.co (not .com).

“[I am] really just excited to be able to capture a lot of the people that make up this city,” he said. “I love painting portraits and I would love to be able to highlight a lot of the voices that are coming out of Federal Way.”

For more information or to view more of his artwork, visit barryjohnson.co.