New visibility via public art: “78 on Jackson,” Paul Rucker
On a hot day this past summer, three older Black women took a break from grocery shopping to sit on a mint-green bench in the shape of a record player tonearm on the plaza in front of the Jackson Apartments. Part of a public artwork by Seattle artist-musician Paul Rucker, the 2,800-pound arm is affixed to an oversized turntable embedded in the concrete of the plaza, complete with a 12-foot diameter granite “vinyl” record etched with the names of 70 jazz artists, as well as 32 venues that once lined Jackson Street.
Rucker’s work was one in a crop of new public artworks by Black artists in the Central District — Seattle’s historically Black neighborhood — that helped anchor new developments with a sense of place and history. This influx of new sculptures and murals reflects a major shift in how local institutions are attempting to honor long-obscured histories, eclipsed stories and marginalized artists with major public artworks.