Illustrational portrait depicting Jovita Idar, a Mexican American journalist and activist.

Young Artists Will Design Limited-Edition ORCA Cards as RapidRide Expands

by Mark Van Streefkerk

Three young Seattle-area artists are designing limited-edition ORCA cards in anticipation of King County Metro Transit’s RapidRide expansion. Cultural funding agency 4Culture and partners King County Metro Transit and RapidRide have developed an art plan in conjunction with three new RapidRide lines that will be introduced over the next few years. One of the opportunities of the art plan was for three young artists to design an ORCA card corresponding to the upcoming H, G, and I lines. 4Culture recently announced the selected artists: Jovita Mercado, Yasiman Ahsani, and Rey Daoed.

“We wanted to do one special-edition card for each of those lines as they start service,” said Laura Becker, the senior public art project manager at 4Culture. “We have very few opportunities for young and emerging artists in public art. That’s something that we are committed to focusing on.” 

Many talented artists applied for the opportunity, prompting 4Culture to create an online virtual gallery of works from applicants. Choosing only three artists was difficult, but Becker said that the selected artist cohort demonstrated a “relationship or connection to the [RapidRide] line itself.” The artists will be working closely with mentors Angelina Villalobos, an activist and muralist, and artist and designer Jesse Brown for support as they develop their artwork proposals. 4Culture’s Public Art Advisory Committee will review the cohort’s preliminary designs this month. The artists will incorporate any feedback they receive into their work and submit their final designs in August. 

As the new RapidRide lines are rolled out — the H line is expected to begin service sometime in 2022, with the G and I lines following in roughly 2023 and 2024 respectively — the cards will be introduced in a limited run. The number printed and where they will be dispensed is to be determined, though Becker said the cards will most likely be available at high-ridership locations close to the RapidRide line. 

The artist’s work will be featured on one side of the special ORCA cards. “These are miniature artworks,” Becker said. “Original artwork as opposed to a logo or branding.” 

Each artist’s identity, unique style, and connection to the new RapidRide lines all factor into their work. Read on to learn more about each artist and the route they will commemorate. 

Jovita Mercado

Jovita Mercado is a Chicana artist who recently graduated from the University of Washington. Her paintings, digital art, and installations explore Mexican American identities and gender inequity. Originally from Yakima, Mercado’s father was a migrant worker at one point, and her mother is from California, a state with a vibrant Chicano art scene that Mercado admires. She will be designing the ORCA card artwork for the RapidRide H line, a route that passes through Delridge, White Center, and Burien. 

Illustrational portrait depicting Jovita Idar, a Mexican American journalist and activist.
Jovita Mercado’s paintings, digital art, and installations depict Mexican American life and take a critical look at gender-based inequity within the culture. “Astrea Goddess of Justice” depicts Jovita Idar, a Mexican American journalist and activist. Photo courtesy of Jovita Mercado.

“I specifically chose the H line because I connect to those places,” Mercado said. “There’s a large Latinx population in those spaces, and I want to be able to celebrate them through the artwork.” 

Mercado calls her mentorship with Villalobos “uplifting and empowering.” In fact, Villalobos encouraged Mercado to show her artwork at Nepantla Cultural Arts Gallery in Delridge. The vibrancy and joy of connecting with other Latinx artists and community at Nepantla is something Mercado wants to convey in her ORCA card artwork. 

“When [transit riders] look at my Orca card, I hope that they feel the feelings I felt at Nepantla — a warm, celebratory feeling towards these communities — and understand that we need to sustain them,” she said. 

Mercado will also be installing art at the Seattle Center in August through the the City of Seattle’s Public Art Boot Camp. Find out more about Mercado’s work at her website, and see her art at Nepantla through the month of July. 

Yasiman Ahsani

Yasiman Ahsani is an Iranian American artist who takes inspiration from the colors, patterns, and images of her heritage. Their work includes 2D and 3D digital art as well as acrylic paintings and prints. Ahsani will be making the ORCA card for the G line — the route that connects Madison, Downtown, and West Seattle. Moving through these neighborhoods is something that Ahsani is familiar with. 

From the “calm neighborhood” of Madison, the route moves “towards the hustle and bustle of the city, and then you’re crossing into West Seattle — this is such an iconic Seattle view — you see the waterfront with the mountains and then the buildings framing that. It’s the most perfect thing in the whole world,” Ahsani said. 

Photo of Yasiman Ahsani posing next to one of their works.
Yasiman Ahsani’s works include 2D and 3D digital art, as well as paintings and prints. Photo courtesy of Yasiman Ahsani.

Throughout the process of designing the ORCA card, they will work with mentor Jesse Brown, an artist whose work she has admired. “He’s been extremely helpful and great to work with,” she said. 

Ahsani’s work is typically detailed and line-heavy, featuring quirky characters and faces. They want transit riders to “get excited and happy,” when looking at the ORCA card she designed. “I want them to notice something new every time they look at it. I hope they can also connect to the way that I’ve interpreted my connection with the [G] line.” 

Check out Ahsani’s website to learn more about her work. 

Rey Daoed

Rey Daoed is a painter, illustrator, and digital artist currently based in Sammamish. Diagnosed with autism and apraxia of speech, Daoed struggled with motor challenges growing up. When he discovered painting, he felt liberated. “The good thing about my art is that you don’t have to wait for me. It is up to you, the viewers, to see what I want to say,” he said in an artist statement on his website.

Daoed will be designing the ORCA card for the RapidRide I line, which connects Renton, Kent, and Auburn. Through his paintings and illustrations, Daoed often depicts people in transit: on bikes, on busses, or moving along sidewalks, going from one place to another. He often paints faceless figures — that way viewers can see themselves or someone they know in the art. 

Daoed has already made sketches and studies of transit during his own trips on the RapidRide in anticipation of this project. “I pay attention to who and what people do when they ride the bus,” he said. “The main focus is the figures … Figures are the most interesting to paint. I believe that is what draws people to my work. Figures are like a snapshot of our humanity.” 

Photo of Ray Daoed painting.
Rey Daoed is a painter and illustrator who felt liberated when he began to paint. Daoed often paints faceless figures, an effective way for the viewer to picture themselves reflected in the art. Photo courtesy of Rey Daoed.

Metro Transit is an iconic sight in Seattle, Daoed said, especially since taking public transit is an integral part of so many lives. Each and every transit rider who has one of these limited-edition ORCA cards will have a little piece of artwork lovingly created by the artist cohort. 

Daoed hopes that riders who have one of his ORCA cards know that his work is “drawn from my love of art and as a form of expression. That this [is] a special something you keep in your wallet.”

Mark Van Streefkerk is a South Seattle-based journalist, freelance writer, and the Emerald’s Arts, Culture, & Community editor. He often writes about restaurants, LGBTQ+ topics, and more. Visit his website and follow him on Twitter at @VanStreefkerk.

📸 Featured Image: “Astrea Goddess of Justice” by Jovita Mercado.

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