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Meet the Artist Behind Downtown Bellevue's New Intersection Artwork

May 21, 2024 - by Sandy Vo

Meet Esmeralda Vasquez:
The Artist Behind Downtown Bellevue's New Intersection Artwork

Just a few weeks away from Pride Month, the City of Bellevue has announced that a new decorative pavement treatment celebrating LGBTQIA+ pride is coming to Downtown Bellevue. At the end of May, the intersection of 102nd Avenue NE and NE First Street – just south of Downtown Park – will be under transformation as installation begins on the artwork.

Officially titled‘ The Love Between,’ Esmeralda Vasquez is the visionary artist behind this project. The design will be roughly 35 by 38 feet and completely installed using thermoplastic material – an adhesive tar that can last five to ten years. Her description of the artwork is as follows:

The artwork contains two large color-blocked hands depicted in purple and blue, with red nails. The hands are mirroring each other, one above and one below. They are positioned towards each other as if they are each offering something to the other. In the space between the hands, there is a long and twisted stem in two tones of green. The stem is also mirrored as it flows its way through the center and wraps around the fingers of each hand. Along the stem are eight small flowers. The first six flowers follow the order of the rainbow, and the seventh and eighth flowers are in the colors of the trans and non-binary flags. The hands are meant to be a leading focal point of this artwork because of their size and gentle gesture. The colors of the hands are a nod to the bisexual flag — pink, purple, and blue.

Vasquez never shied away from creating artwork that evoked conversations and emotions. As a self-taught multidisciplinary artist, she has always felt like it was her civic duty to make art that positively impacted different communities. Her very first mural back in 2019, titled “Equality” and located in Yakima, Washington, set the tone for future projects moving forward – art that focused on social justice and community. Since then, Vasquez has collaborated and created art for multiple nonprofit organizations such as Pro-Choice Washington, Urban Artworks, The Feels Foundation, and The Museum of Flight.

“Art has a way of bringing people together, so when I started creating these very large and public murals, I wanted to make sure that I did it with purpose and intent,” Vasquez said. “Creating visual art is my way of using my voice to speak up about important issues and topics going on in the world right now.”

The addition of ‘The Love Between’ to Vasquez’s portfolio is especially personal to her. As a Latinx/LGBTQ+ artist, her goal for this intersection artwork was to highlight the queer experience from her own perspective and others. When Vasquez accepted this opportunity, she collected hundreds of inputs from individuals in the community and integrated them into the artwork we see today. Vasquez stated that the whole design is a symbol for growth and strength. The twists and turns of the two-toned green stem represent the windy and confusing experience of being a queer individual. While the stem connects all of the colors, Vasquez separated the flowers as a statement that all communities within the queer community deserve their own standalone space as well.

“Sending out the survey was a huge part of the design process. I wanted to hear people’s stories and learn exactly how this artwork could make an impact on their personal lives.” Vasquez said. “Representation matters, and for someone to be able to see themselves in ‘The Love Between’ is so important to me.”

While the artwork is temporary, Vasquez hopes the legacy she leaves behind is one that is rooted in furthering a message of inclusivity and diversity in the Bellevue area. ‘The Love Between’ was designed for all, regardless of age, identity, and culture.

“At the end of the day, I want this artwork to have a beautiful narrative because the queer community is beautiful and deserves recognition and their own space to feel appreciated.” she said. “I hope my art will reflect that.”

Join the Bellevue Downtown Association and Esmeralda Vasquez at the upcoming Paws & Pride Dog Walk presented by Symetra on June 1 at Bellevue Downtown Park. With production partner Eastside Pride PNW, we will be the largest LGBTQIA+ event in Bellevue. Come kick off Pride Month with a stroll around the park and post-walk festivities featuring a mimosa/beer garden, DJ Puma, RuPaw’s Dawg Costume Contest, Drag Queen performances, and more. Register now! 

The Transportation Department and the Arts and Culture team in the Community Development Department are jointly leading this project. You can learn more about this artwork at the City of Bellevue's recent press release.

This blog is part of the Heart of Bellevue: our campaign to showcase local businesses while connecting you with stories of activity, creativity and recovery. Find out about our campaign and explore more of what’s happening around Downtown.