By Rose Clark
President, Des Moines Memorial Drive Preservation Association
This Memorial Day, 2023, the Des Moines Memorial Drive Preservation Association unveiled signal boxes wrapped in WWI-themed art to be found at major intersections along Des Moines Memorial Drive from 116th Street to the beautiful flagpole on the north end of Des Moines.
A very nice group of great local Highline public figures and citizens attended our annual Memorial Day observance and the ribbon-cutting for the signal box artwork. It was a beautiful day. A special thank you to Kate Bysheim for her moving rendition of our National Anthem!
First we want to thank Burien Parks
They created a flower bed in front of the historical monument. Lisa Aumun and Lisa Robinson created magic from historical 1910 bricks to make a border beautiful plant. Lisa Robinson planted Sedum, Saliva, Res carnation, Variegated Grass, and Cora Bells. Overtime the bed can be extended. It is worth stopping by to see.
With grant funds from Burien, Des Moines, SeaTac and the Port of Seattle we went to work to beautify these corners with WWI historical themed art. The Highline area residents really Gifford, the local lawyer, provided us with all the legal documents needed. We talked to the arts commissions from Burien, SeaTac and Des Moines as well as local groups. An arts committee was needed to help select THE artist. Luckily, we had many Highline area volunteers. We worked with Gabriela Frank, Melinda Behrman, Ted Teppo, Jackie Benster, Judy Davies, Diana Cambronero, and Kim Ross. They met on a cold windy day outside due to COVID lockdown; then in a church; worked a lot on email and on the phone – what a wonderful group. Studying art submissions from across the country we gave them no biographical data – just art. The art submissions came from several states as well as local.
About Wrap Artist Daniel Wend
The chosen artist was Daniel Wend from Des Moines, WA!
“We could not have had a better artist to work with,” organizers said.
Wend had a list of instructions for what needed to be expressed artistically. He met every single one and here he describes his work:
“This project honors those Americans who fought and died in World War I. Des Moines Memorial Drive celebrates our freedoms by honoring those heroes who fought in the “Great War” and paid the ultimate sacrifice so future generations could live in peace. Just like the residents living along the drive today, the World War I armies were made up of people from around the world, including from here in Washington state. This project is part of the effort to preserve and maintain Des Moines Memorial Drive as a unique, living historic monument through educational, cultural, civic, and fundraising endeavors.“
Wend also tipped his hat to The Library of Congress/The National Archives/Wend Images for images he used on the signal boxes:
“The image(s) found on these utility boxes serves as a historic journey through the drama and sacrifice of World War 1 which became known as the ‘War to End All Wars.’ The photos in this collection include portraits of battle weary and shell-shocked soldiers who fought overseas, Choctaw Code Talkers who were the first Native Americans to contribute their language as secret code to further the war effort, the famous Fighting 369th regiment of African American soldiers from New York City, soldier Warren Gilbert, and the U. S Army officer of Japanese descent. More information is available at the Library of Congress at www.loc.gov/ and the National Archives at www.archives.gov/.” Credits provided by Daniel Wend.
Organizers would also like to note that Warren Gilbert is the grandfather of Wend, the artist. So, there is another local connection.
Art that Honors History
It is our hope that through the years that this art on the corner will serve to excite the community, especially our youth, to discover history. The faces on the posters are reflected in the residents along Des Moines Memorial Drive today. The people represented by the images fought for the peace and freedoms we all enjoy today.
A special thank you to Graphics NW for reproducing and applying the art to the Signal Boxes.
And lastly, a sincere thank you to the DMMDPA Board of Directors Rose Clark, Kitty Milne, Diane Kennish and Stan Haralson for their tireless dedication in seeing this project happen, to preserve this piece of history for our community!
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