In celebration of American Asian, Native Hawaiian and Pasifika Heritage (AANHP) Month, King County Metro this week unveiled three art projects designed by Metro employees:

  • A dramatic bus wrap by Vance Sakado celebrating his heritage
  • Bus shelter artwork by Wan-Lin Tsou with gorgeous cultural images encased in dragon scales
  • A large multi-panel installation by Linh Hoang and Keiko Budech celebrating the love and hard work of AANHP mothers.

Surrounded by the artists and their families, Metro General Manager Michelle Allison led the unveiling of the artwork. The projects were selected after Metro employees were invited to submit their artwork and ideas for graphic or artistic symbols of the history and rich contributions of our AANHP community to the region and country.

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“I’m moved by this artwork from Metro employees on different aspects of the AANHP experience and I can’t wait until everyone has a chance to see it around King County,” said King County Executive Dow Constantine. “Art is a universal language that crosses time, place, languages, and cultures. It poses ideas in a way we can all understand or feel, whatever our backgrounds, and it often offers important questions about history and society.”

The artists and supporters shared heartfelt and deeply reflective perspectives during the unveiling and celebration of their work. 

“At Metro, we wanted to make a visible statement to our region about our ongoing commitment to equity, inclusion and belonging, the immigrant and refugee experience of our many residents, and how our AANHP community helped shape our region,” General Manager Allison said at the ceremony. “This is art that both invites us to admire its beauty and urges us to engage with issues of social identity, cultural conventions and oppression. These artistic statements will serve as a public statement to increase the visibility, stand in solidarity, and honor our AANHP employees throughout Metro and King County.”

Artwork that reflects our communities

This is the third art project that reflects the voices and culture of the communities Metro serves, following our earlier Pride and Black Lives Matter bus wraps. Metro also is currently featuring community-based poetry on buses rolling across the region. Today’s unveiling was scheduled in May in reflection of American Asian, Native Hawaiian and Pasifika Heritage Month.

Two of the artists said they were moved to express themselves in art following the shooting deaths of 11 people inside the Monterey Park, Calif., Star Ballroom in 2023 during the Lunar New Year celebrations.

Sakado said the news of the shootings hit him hard. He’d grown up in the next town over, and the ballroom was popular with Asian Americans, just like himself. The president called for flags nationally to fly at half-staff in honor of the victims, but Sakado, a Metro Transportation Safety Administrator, was bothered when he noticed many flags were not. Sakado opened discussions at Metro about it, and that led to the idea for an AANHP visibility project and request for proposals from employee artists. A panel of AANHP members from an employee group selected the three finalists.

Sakado entered his own proposal and today that art is emblazoned across the sides of a 60-foot-long bus that will be seen around the region. The bus incorporates images important to Sakado and his family: portraits of his cats, symbols of Hawaii, the birthplace of his father, and barbed wire representing the internment of his mother’s Japanese American family during World War II. 

“They were stripped of their rights and interned,” he said. “I hope people will take the time when they see the bus (and learn) a little bit of Asian American history.”

His art is joined by an installation honoring AANHP mothers that will grace Metro facilities and a third project of images from AANHP culture that will be displayed at bus shelters throughout Seattle’s historic Chinatown-International District.

‘More positive representation of our community’

The artist for the bus shelters, Wan-Lin Tsou, a Project-Program Manager for Metro, likewise was haunted by the Star Ballroom tragedy. She created a design modeled after the fictional scales of a dragon.

“Last year, I was moved to help with the … bus project after attending the King County AANHP Employee Resource Group where I met a couple that was directly affected by the tragic Monterey Park shootings,” she said. “The victims were all from an AANHP background and (it was) felt that we needed more positive representation of our community. I wanted to highlight 20 different AANHP countries with their traditional dessert foods, cultural patterns and national landmarks. The theme of this art idea is to try to represent different facets of a large AANHP diaspora.”

Deeply reflective projects of love and support

Linh Hoang, a Metro graphic artist, and Keiko Budech, a Metro Equity, Inclusion and Belonging Manager, collaborated on a large, aluminum multi-panel installation featuring mothers of Metro employees.

Hoang said she was inspired by viewing a portrait of President Barack Obama by artist Kehinde Wiley.

“In it, he (Obama) is seated, with a vine behind him, and he’s looking up, and looks very powerful,” she said. This composition inspired her own artwork. Hoang aims to celebrate the formidable strength and resilience of AANHP mothers as they navigate society. Her intention is to honor individuals like her mother, who immigrated to a new country without knowing the language yet worked tirelessly to provide greater opportunities for their children.

“What I really appreciate about my mom is how she works so hard, so her family can have just enough,” she said. She included her mother’s portrait in the project, posing her by a papaya tree, whose name translates in Vietnamese to “just enough.”

Budech called the project deeply reflective. “We thought through the intersection of race and gender…In a patriarchal society, these stories get lost.”

And her mother? She’s depicted in the project, too, poised by ferns, “an under-story plant…she’s always been there, giving support.” 

Looking ahead

Metro is committed to launching annual art initiatives that highlight and bring visibility to communities where needs are greatest.

Our hope is that this artwork can provide a starting point for healing, connection, and meaningful conversations that foster empathy and inspire positive change.

Metro’s hope is this artwork will serve as a public statement to increase visibility, stand in solidarity, and honor the AANHP community. Learn more about the different pieces of artwork.

Since 2007, The B-Town Blog is Burien’s multiple award-winning hyperlocal news/events website dedicated to independent journalism.

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