Wednesday, June 28, 2017 This Week's Paper

A different take on artistic reflection

When Richard C. Elliot reflects back on his time as an artist, he does just that - literally.

Elliot, who resides in the famous "Dick and Jane's House" in Ellensburg, has made a name for himself in the world of reflector art. And that might be because he is the only one doing it, but it may also be because his work really shines.

His work can be seen all over the state of Washington: near the United and Alaska airlines' baggage claim in SeaTac Airport, the dome border on the Yakima Sun Dome, Eastlake High School in Renton, and a couple of large-scale light rail and elevator projects. His colorful compositions can also be seen in Times Square in New York City and light rail stations in South Carolina and Colorado.

One of Elliot's most recent installations, however, is in a little less public space for a more concentrated audience of teachers and students. Jefferson Elementary School's entryway is home to one of Elliot's smaller geometric schemes made entirely out of small, round, plastic reflectors. His work "Crossroads" was installed right before the start of the 2007-08 school year, but was dedicated to the school Jan. 24, as Elliot and wife Jane made a pit-stop on their way to the governor's mansion to accept an arts award from Governor Christine Gregoire.

Elliot met and mingled with his new fans of elementary school students, signed autographs, took photographs and answered questions after his presentation that showed the students his portfolio of work.

Gasps, giggles and incessant applause erupted from the young audience as they saw a slideshow of the artist's high profile projects ending with a slide of their very own entryway.

Elliot said he is thrilled with the way the installation turned out.

He spent about four months and countless reflectors to create his work that he hoped would "travel through the corridor."

And it does. With colored plastic in the windows on each end of the entryway and a large, intricate centerpiece mounted on the wall in the middle, little flecks of color and light bounce throughout the hall much like children to and from recess.

The original Jefferson Elementary was built in 1906. It was torn down, and new school opened in 2004. It received an Art in Public Places grant from the state, which funded the addition of Elliot's work.

Elliot is one of hundreds of artists on that roster at the Washington State Arts Commission, but Michael Sweney, project manager, said Elliot is always in demand.

Elliot received his bachelor's of arts from Central Washington University (CWU), and has resided in Ellensburg with his wife ever since. Their home has become something of a spectacle to the locals and visitors of Ellensburg, as it is covered in reflectors and surrounded by art of all types.

Elliot said he has received awards in the past honoring his artistic endeavors, such as Alumni of the Year from CWU, but nothing quite like the governor's award he received last week.

"I am stunned," he said, "and humbled." Elliot is one of four artists receiving the award this year, and said he is the only full-time working artist on the bill.

Another public piece of Elliot's work will be unveiled this spring along the Sound Transit light-rail corridor on Martin Luther King, Jr. Way in Seattle.

As Elliot continues creating large-scale public pieces for passersby to marvel at, the students and staff at Jefferson Elementary will always have their own piece of Elliot's work to sit back and reflect on. For more information on Elliot and his work, visit