Ever wonder about that big, red umbrella on the small traffic island where Elliott and Western Avenues merge at Lenora Street? Standing 30 feet tall, this kinetic sculpture’s brushed aluminum red “fabric” is blown inside-out in a perpetual storm, turning like a weather vane in the wind, and named Angie’s Umbrella.
Why is it here? Angie’s Umbrella is one of a series of public artworks that mark the border where Pike Place Market ends and Belltown begins. A Seattle Arts commission process selected the public artist for this project.
Who created it, and what are they doing now? Jim Pridgeon was chosen as the artist by a neighborhood jury, the former Denny Hill Association, and they liked his upturned umbrella idea. Pridgeon then worked with artist Benson Shaw to co-design the final idea and bring it to fruition, which took roughly 2+ years.
- Jim Pridgeon, in addition to being an artist, has worked for over 40 years in the UW Medicine Neurological Surgery department. Jim has worked as a research administrator, summer neuroscience program manager, grant writer, communications writer, scientific papers co-author related to research, and co-taught a class on “Art and the Brain” with a neuroscientist. He has also created museum-based installations locally and nationally, and says of his co-collaborator on different art projects, “Benson [Shaw] has been absolutely critical to the success of many of those works.”
- Benson Shaw, a full-time public artist then and now, creates works for neighborhoods and local organizations (city, county, state, transit). He is often the mover and shaker who brings the necessary pieces, vendors, and people of a project together. Besides co-designing this Belltown project with Pridgeon, Benson also managed the fabrication and installation of Angie’s Umbrella. On his own projects and with other artists, he provides project management, planning, design, procurement, CAD services, fabrication and installation. Benson is also integral in historic preservation, such as replacing Ballard’s historic sidewalk street names.
Who was Angie, and why is it dedicated to her? The plaque embedded in the sidewalk northwest of the sculpture states, “in honor of Angie Pridgeon, optimist”. Jim Pridgeon’s mom, Angilee Frankie Pridgeon, had a positive outlook on life and was 86 years old then. In her life, she showed true grit: being born on a ranch in Oklahoma without the aid of a doctor, herding cattle, surviving a tornado that tore off their roof, supporting her parents for over a year due to health issues after losing their ranch during the Dust Bowl/Great Depression, and lived through personal losses during World War II. She became a pilot in 1944. While working on the umbrella project, Jim Pridgeon regularly flew down to San Diego to take his mom to her doctor appointments. In spite of the cancer she was experiencing, Angie went out of her way to introduce herself and engage with everyone in the waiting room, he said.
In addition to a nod to our local windy days, like Angie herself, the sculpture could also signify resilience and optimism, in spite of rainy weather. As Jim Pridgeon recently put it, “She always made the best of things and, for her, a blown-out umbrella would have been both very funny and a great story to tell.”