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The Goalkeeper as Artist

Sounders star Stefan Frei, in collaboration with WaFd Bank, has a new work of art on permanent public display at Climate Pledge Arena. It’s view into future too

By Bob Condor

When Stefan Frei commutes to his Seattle Sounders day job from Bainbridge Island, he gets into the mindset of a world-class professional soccer goalkeeper. The commute back?

“It separates my day,” said Frei during a recent conversation. “The 30-minute ferry provides a boundary between soccer and the rest of my personal life.”

For the Sounders goalkeeper, that personal side in no small part includes pursuing his dream to “grow and evolve” as a working artist when he decides to hang up the cleats and goalie gloves. Frei’s evolution as an artist is getting a significant boost from his collaboration with WaFd Bank, a founding partner of the Kraken that has a similar relationship with the Sounders. 

The Frei-WaFd Bank connection’s latest example debuted Tuesday evening during a private event at Climate Pledge Arena. The artwork, titled, “Emergence of the Kraken,” will remain in the WaFd Bank Club permanently for public viewing. 

The seven-foot-by-seven-foot work of art took more than 150 hours to complete. Frei dreamed it and created it in his art studio on Bainbridge, using layers that combine his signature artistic geographic shapes with maps of Elliott Bay and downtown Seattle, all combined to represent the emergence of the Kraken in the city and region.

“My art levels me,” said Frei, 36, who holds the Sounders records for wins, saves, shutouts, and starts. “It fits into my plan for the future. I am still playing soccer for a living, but I am finding time and the outlet to build myself up for my next role. It’s amazing to have my Kraken piece displayed in a public space.”

Frei made it clear he is still a goaltender as first priority, which carries through loud and clear in his art. He includes nods to keeping the soccer ball out of his net in various forms in his art. Frei’s pursuit of “geometric abstract” art serves as an outlet that takes some pressure off a professional job that leaves little room for errors. 

Even so, Frei said he “would love to do this [be an artist] full-time once I am finished with soccer and make art my number-one passion.” The Sounders goaltender started his artistic ways as a schoolboy who traveled by train frequently in his native Switzerland. On those rides, he would see “crazy pops of color in nature.” Over the years, Frei has also been inspired by graffiti throughout cityscapes. 

His geometric abstract creations started in the digital space on computers but his public work at Climate Pledge Arena and other recent pieces have moved him to use paint on a physical canvas in a move, well, we can call “retro” or “classical” depending on your point-of-view.

“I’m excited by the ability to manipulate transparency and viscosity of paint,” said Frei. “There’s so much for me to learn. It’s another way for me to grow.”

Frei said he still creates on digital devices, especially for sketches, and thinking about other elements he might potentially add once on canvas.  

The Sounders goalkeeper has an additional artwork display, a piece he called “Evolution in Motion” that can be viewed at WaFd Bank’s downtown branch. In 2020, he painted on a plywood board used to cover the bank’s windows during the pandemic. The commissioned work was later auctioned to support the Sounders’ RAVE Foundation in their efforts to provide access to 26 new and free playfields in communities where access is limited. 

“The beauty of my art is I can still represent my current identity with a lot of goalkeeping in my in my art,” said Frei, who follows the Kraken and attended a couple of Kraken games and last fall’s Andrea Bocelli concert as a birthday gift to his mother. “My journey in art will continue to help me see who I am as a person and human being.”

To learn more about Stefan Frei Art, visit: stefan24frei.com.

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