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The Seattle Art Museum Sculpture Park
The Seattle Art Museum Sculpture Park
The Seattle Art Museum Olympic Sculpture Park
A few blocks west of the Seattle Space Needle lies the Olympic Sculpture Park, a gem of a park in the middle of the city where visitors can enjoy both art and nature. The Olympic Sculpture Park was created by the Seattle Art Museum on nine acres of land that was formerly a contaminated industrial site. The project was made possible by donations by many companies and individuals and the cooperation of several private and public organizations including The Trust for Public Land, the City of Seattle, King County, the State of Washington and the US Government.
The Olympic Sculpture Park includes works of art by many world famous artists including Alexander Calder, Mark Di Suvero, Roy McMakin, Ellsworth Kelly, George Rickey, Beverly Pepper, Roxy Paine, Richard Serra, Louise Nevelson, Tony Smith, Mark Dion, Louise Bourgeois, Teresita Fernandez, Jaume Plensa, Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen.
When the park opened on January 20, 2007 the banners proclaimed "Where eARTh meets ART!" With this theme in mind, the Olympic Sculpture Park has something for everyone to enjoy. It offers the opportunity to see great works of art, a place to sit, relax and enjoy the views of Puget Sound and the Olympic Mountains and a place to learn about the native plant species of the Pacific Northwest. The park is planted with gardens of native plant species divided into four sections, each garden representing a specific type of Pacific Northwest natural habitat: The Valley, The Meadows, The Aspen Grove and The Shore. The Neukom Vivarium provides a glimpse into yet another Pacific Northwest ecosystem - the old growth forest. The Olympic Sculpture Park has become a popular free Seattle attraction.
Come along on a tour of Seattle Art Museum's Olympic Sculpture park on a spring day in Seattle WA.
All Photos on this page by Vicki Sims - PNW Travels
Seattle Art Museum Building at the Olympic Sculpture Park
The SAM PACCAR Pavilion
A good place to start a visit to the Olympic Sculpture Park is to go inside the Seattle Art Museum PACCAR Pavilion. The SAM PACCAR Pavilion includes indoor art displays, maps and brochures about the park, a gift shop, snack bar and children's play area. The building was made possible by a donation from PACCAR, the Seattle company that builds Kenworth trucks.
A Place for Children to Create Their Own Art
The PACCAR Pavilion Kid's Corner
This area inside the PACCAR Pavilion provides a place for children to play and create their own works of art. The wall of windows provide a view of the Gates Amphitheater and "Valley" area of the park.
Curve XXIV - By Ellsworth Kelly
Artist and sculptor, Ellsworth Kelly is known for his work that uses plants as his subject matter and inspiration. His sculpture on display at the SAM Sculpture Park was inspired by the shape of a ginkgo leaf.
About Sculptor, Ellsworth Kelly
"Curve XXIV" is displayed on an exterior wall of the PACCAR Pavilion near the Western Avenue Entrance to the Olympic Sculpture Park. The shape is reminiscent of the leaf of a ginkgo tree.
The sculptor, Ellsworth Kelly, is an American painter and sculptor who was born in 1923 in Newburgh, New York and grew up in New Jersey. From an early age Kelly was interested in birdwatching and nature and this background shows in his art. He has done numerous drawings of plants and flowers since the 1940s. He began making large-scale outdoor sculptures in 1973.
Where is the SAM Olympic Sculpture Park?
The Seattle Art Museum Olympic Sculpture Park is bordered by Puget Sound to the West, Western Avenue to the East and Broad Street to the South.
The Gates Amphitheater
Renting the Sculpture Park for an Event
Another view of the PACCAR Pavilion and The Trust For Public Lands Terrace looking up from the Gates Amphitheater. The Olympic Sculpture Park can be used for special events, weddings and meetings. For more information or to make reservations, contact the Seattle Art Museum.
"Wake" by Richard Serra
Richard Serra's "Wake" was created in 2004 and consists of five tall curved metal structures that suggest the hulls of ships or waves - a fitting sculpture for Seattle with its maritime history and location on the shores of Puget Sound.
Richard Serra Sculpture: Forty Years
This book written by Kynastin McShine, Lynne Cooke and John Rajchman and the artist, is a 420 page comprehensive look about Richard Serra and the art he created over a 40 year period. It includes interviews with the artist and photos of many of his works.
About Sculptor, Richard Serra
Richard Serra is an American sculptor born in San Francisco, CA in 1932. Although he has used many materials in his work over the years, he is best known for his large COR-TEN-Steel sculptures made from large rolls and sheets of metal.
Two Plane Vertical Horizontal III - By George Rickey
George Rickey: Kinetic Sculpture, A Retrospective - By Valerie Fletcher
This book 120 page book written by Valerie Fletcher includes complete information about George Rickey's sculptures created between 1950 and 2000.
About Sculptor George Rickey
George Rickey (1907-2002) was an American sculptor who was one of the pioneers of kinetic sculptures. Originally a painter, George Rickey started his career as a sculptor in 1949. Rickey combined his love of art lightest breeze. Rickey's stainless steel sculpture,"Two Plane Vertical Horizontal V" is mesmerizing to watch as the two squares constantly move.
Sky Landscape I
Sky Landscape I - By Louise Nevelson
Louise Nevelson started creating Sky Landscape I, a welded aluminum sculpture, in 1976 and completed it in 1983. Typical of many of her works it is painted black. It was donated to the Seattle Art Museum for display at the Olympic Sculpture Park by Jon and Mary Shirley.
The Sculpture of Louise Nevelson: Constructing a Legend by Brooke Kamin Rapaport
This 256 page book is the most comprehensive I've found about Louise Nevelson and her work. It is both a biography and a catalog of her sculptures and includes many color and black and white photos of her work.
Louise Nevelson (1899-1988)
Louise Nevelson was an American sculptor born Leah Berliawsky to Jewish parents in Russia on September 23, 1899. She came to the US as a young girl when she was about 6 years old and married Bernard Nevelson in 1920. Shortly after her marriage she began to study art. The marriage ended in divorce and she struggled to support herself and her son as an artist during the Great Depression. Eventually she became focused on sculpting, originally using mostly wood as the material, but later utilizing metal and plastic as well. She was known for creating black monochromatic pieces, often using recycling materials she found on the street. In the 1940s Nevelson became more recognized for her artistic talent and over the course of life her work was displayed in numerous museums and galleries. She wasn't commissioned to make her first outdoor sculpture until 1969. She was known as a rather eccentric person who by her own admission enjoyed having being flamboyant. She continued working well into her 80s until shortly before her death in April 1988.
Signs with Information About the Art and Artist
Signs at the Park Educate About the Artist
Another feature of the park is the signs near each sculpture which provide information about the work and the sculptor.
Perre's Ventaglio III
"Perre's Venaglio III" by Beverly Pepper
Perre's Ventaglio III was created in 1967 and in the setting of the Olympic Sculpture park is stunning as the shiny stainless steel angles reflect the colors of the sky, earth and native shrubs surrounding it.
Peresephone Unbound by Beverly Pepper
Persephone Unbound is another sculpture by Beverly Pepper that was completed in 1999. It is made of stone and has a totally different feel than her other sculpture, Perre's Ventaglio III, that is also featured in The Olympic Sculpture Park.
Beverly Pepper: Sculpture in Place by Rosalind E Krauss
Read more about Beverly Pepper in this 176 book "Beverly Pepper: Sculpture In Place" by Rosalind E Krauss. The book includes many color and black and white photos of Pepper's work.
About the Sculptor, Beverly Pepper
Born in Brooklyn, New York in 1922, Beverly Pepper began her career in art as a painter. She attended the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn and later attended classes at Brooklyn College. In 1949 she moved to Paris, France and studied painting at the Academie de la Grande Chaumiere. Gradually she shifted her focus from painting to sculpture. The materials used in her work include primarily stone and metals. She is known for her outdoor sculptures, land art and site specific art. Since 1951 she has kept homes in both Todi, Italy and New York.
Native Plants of the Pacific Northwest
With the mission of the Olympic Sculpture Park to combine art with nature, you will find numerous informational signs identifying the native plants, including their common name, botanical name, the name they were called by the local native tribe, the habitat they prefer and how they can be used for food or medicinal purposes.
Trailing Blackberry or Pacific Blackberry - Rubus ursinus
Trailing Blackberry Plant
The Pacific Blackberry is one of the Pacific Northwest native plants that is featured in the "valley" habitat section of the Olympic Sculpture Park.
Learn About Pacific Northwest Native Plants
The Olympic Sculpture Park Meadows
Wildlife Habitat and Open Space at the Seattle Sculpture Park
The Olympic Sculpture Park has several beautiful meadow areas planted with grasses and native wildflowers that provide an oasis of wildlife habitat and open space in the heart of one of the most heavily urbanized areas of Seattle.
Pacific Northwest Native Wildflowers
"Split" by Roxie Paine
"Split" by sculptor Roxie Paine was finished in 2003. Although it is made of steel pipes it was created based on a detailed analysis of the structure of a tree and looks amazingly like a leafless tree in winter.
Roxy Paine by Eleanor Heartney
This 255 page book by author Eleanor Heartney details the work of Roxy Paine including an explanation of the process that the sculptor uses to create his metal trees and other "dendroids".
Sculptor, Roxy Paine
Roxy Paine was born in 1966 in New York. He is known for how he blends industry with nature. "Split" is one of His "Dendroids" which are manufactured to mimic natural processes like the shape of a tree.
A Greenhouse as Art
The Newkom Vivarium by Mark Dion
The Newkom Vivarium is a unique feature of the Olympic Sculpture Park that combines art, architecture and environmental education. Step inside the 80 ft long greenhouse to learn about the complex ecosystem of an old growth Pacific Northwest forests that once covered what is now Seattle and the surrounding area. The exhibit is hands-on with magnifying glasses to see an enlarged view of the life of the forest. Tiles on the wall of the raised bed serve as a field guide for identifying the various species.
Inside the Neukom Vivarium
The Nurse Log
Dead Trees of the Forest Nurture Life
The Neukom Vivarium features a 60 foot long Western Hemlock "nurse log" that was removed from a Pacific Northwest old growth forest for the display. Visitors have the opportunity to see how trees that have died and have come to rest on the forest floor nourish forest understory plants including the next generation of trees. Nurse logs also provide shelter for many organisms that are important to the health of a forest. Visitors can use microscopes and magnifying glasses to see the smallest inhabitants of the nurse log and learn about their importance to the complex forest ecosystem.
Mark Dion: Contemporary Artist
In 161 pages of photos and text author Lias Graziose Corrin provides both a biographical profile of Mark Dion and his unique method of combining science, environmental education and art.
About Artist Mark Dion
Mark Dion is an American artist who was born in New Bedford, Massachusetts in 1961. He is best known for combining a unique blend of sculpture, horticulture, architecture science, history and environmental education in his art projects.
"The Eagle" by Alexander Calder
Alexander Calder's sculpture, Eagle is the centerpiece of the Olympic Sculpture Park. Although Alexander Calder is known for his mobile sculptures, he is also known for his stabiles that are stationary. " Eagle" is a stabile which was created in 1971 at the height of Calder's career.
"Calder and Abstraction: From Avant-Garde to Iconic" by Stephanie Barron
In this 208 page book, author Stephanie Barron explains how of the art of Alexander Calder influenced other artists and includes over 130 photographs of Calder's work.
Alexander Calder (1898-1976)
Alexander Calder was an American artist and sculptor who was born in Philadelphia, PA in 1898. He was the son of two artists and showed his artistic gifts at an early age. He is most famous for being the artist who invented the mobile. He later expanded the concept to large pieces of kinetic sculpture. He also created large sculptures that did not move which are called "stabiles". Alexander Calder's, work, "Eagle" is the centerpiece of the Olympic Sculpture Park. .
"Bunyon's Chess" by Mark di Suvero
Mark di Suvero's sculpture, Bunyon's Chess, was completed in 1965 and was created specifically to be displayed outdoors in Seattle. The stainless steel combined with large wooden logs overlooking Puget Sound blends elements of Seattle's historical maritime and logging industries. Bunyon's Chess is one of two pieces at the Olympic Sculpture Park that was created by Mark Di Suvero. The other is Shubert Sonata.
Mark Di Suvero: Retrospective 1959-1991 by Mark di Suvero
This artist, Mark Di Suvero wrote this restrospective about his own work.
Mark di Suvero - More About Mark di Suvero
Marco Polo "Mark" di Suvero was born Marco Polo Levi in Shanghai, China in 1933 to parents from Italy. He came to the US in 1942 with his family and they settled in San Francisco. He later moved to New York where he was injured in a freight elevator accident.
While in rehabilitation from his injuries, he learned how to arc weld and began to make sculptures from tires, railroad ties, scrap metal and steel. He was inspired by the work of Alexander Calder to create kinetic sculptures.
Untitled - By Roy McMakin
Untitled by Roy McMakin
This untitled work is one of two of Roy McMakin sculptures displayed in the Olympic Sculpture Park. The lawn chair appears to be a typical inexpensive plastic one, but is actually made from bronze. A photo of his other sculpture in the park, "Love & Loss" can be seen further down the page.
When is a Chair not a Chair by Roy McMakin
Architect, furniture designer and sculptor Roy McMakin wrote this 208 page retrospective of his own work, including many photos and provides insights into his inspiration and methods.
Roy Mc Makin - More About the Artist, Roy McMakin
Roy McMakin is a Seattle-based artist, architect and furniture maker who was born in Lander, WY in 1956. He began his career as a furniture maker and his art frequently incorporates furniture and common household objects. Mcmakin is also known for his use of visual humor and puns in many of his works.
Lupine Blooming in the Meadow
Lupines in Bloom
This Lupine is another native perennial flower that blooms in the meadow area.
Garry Oak or Oregon White Oak Tree - Quercus Garryana
Plantings of Native Oak Trees
The Garry Oak (also known as the Oregon White Oak) is the only native oak species found in the state of Washington. The Garry Oak groves are critical habitats for a number of species that are rare and the number of oak groves in Washington has diminished greatly over the past 100 years. The small oak grove at the Olympic Sculpture Park is planted with native wildflower species commonly found growing under oaks.
Typewriter Eraser Scale X
Typewriter Eraser Scale X - By Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen
Typewriter Eraser Scale X was completed in 1999 and is the sculpture most people in Seattle are familiar with even if they haven't visited the Olympic Sculpture Park. It is clearly visible to anyone driving past the park on Elliott Avenue.
This book is a catalog of the art of Claes Oldemburg and Coosje van Burggen in chronological order. It includes a section of their large-scale projects, with drawings, models, and photographs.
Sculptors Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen
Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen are a husband and wife team who married in 1977 and began working together as sculptors in 1976. Claes Oldenburg was born in Stockholm Sweden in 1929. Coosje van Bruggen was born June 6, 1942 in Groningen, Netherlands and died January 10, 2009 in Los Angeles, California. Oldenburg and van Bruggen are best known for taking everyday objects and enlarging them into giant sized sculptures.
Seattle Cloud Cover Bridge
"Seattle Cloud Cover" by Teresita Fernandez
Seattle Cloud Cover was completed in 2006 for the Seattle Olympic Sculpture Park as park of the park's construction. It is made from color saturated photographs sandwiched between plates of glass. Interestingly, the pictures of clouds used to make "Seattle Cloud Cover" were actually photos of clouds taken in Florida. This work is located along a pedestrian overpass over the railroad and softens the view of the train tracks below. The colors change with the weather and it also functions to provide some cover from the rain.
Teresita Fernandez: Blind Landscape by Dave Hikey
This 160 page book written by Dave Hickey has more information about the unique work of Teresita Fernandez., the artist who created "Seattle Cloud Cover" for the Seattle Olympic Sculpture Park.
Artist Teresita Fernandez
Teresita Fernandez was born in Miami, Florida in 1968 and earned a bachelors degree of fine arts from Florida International University in 1990 and a Masters of Fine Art from Virginia Commonwealth University in 1992. She is known for sculptures that create optical illusions and include elements of nature like rainbows, fire, water and sunlight.
The View From Olympic Sculpture Park
The Real Seattle Cloud Cover
The park is on a hill overlooking Puget Sound. The views change with the weather and when the clouds clear, the park's namesake Olympic Mountains can be seen.
Ketcham Families Grove - An Aspen Grove Ecosystem
Aspen Trees in the Heart of Seattle
Walking through the Ketcham Families Aspen Grove transports visitors from the middle of the city to a walk in a mountain forest. The forest understory plants include native currant, salmonberry, Oregon grape, ferns and iris.
"Wandering Rocks" by Tony Smith
As the trail through the aspen grove transitions to the waterfront, "Wandering Rocks", the first of two of Tony Smith's sculptures is nestled along the way. Wandering Rocks was completed in 1974.
"Stinger" by Tony Smith
"Stinger" was completed by Tony Smith in 1968 and it was originally called "One Gate". It was renamed "Stinger" after the popular drink in 1999.
Tony Smith: Architect, Painter, Sculptor
This 200 page book written by John Keenen and published by the Museum of Modern Art contains a complete overview of the life and work of Tony Smith.
Tony Smith - 1912-1980
Tony Smith was an American architect and artist who was born in 1912 in New Jersey. He spent most of his life as an architect and painter who only became a sculptor in the last 20 years of his life.
Salmonberry (Rubus spectabilis)
The salmonberry is a very common native shrub in the Pacific Northwest. It grows in damp areas in large thickets and is a close relative of blackberries and raspberries. The salmonberry is one of the first shrubs to bloom in the spring with striking bright magenta colored flowers that can be seen in this photo. The flowers are a favorite nectar source for hummingbirds and bumblebees. In early summer when the dark orange or red berries ripen, they provide a feast for robins and other birds that eat berries.
Eye Benches I, II and III
"Eye Benches" By Louise Bourgeois
The "Eye Benches I, II and III" are 3 separate works created from Italian granite by Louise Bourgeois. The artist donated these works to the Seattle Art Museum in 2005. They are located by the waterfront entrance to the Olympic Sculpture by another of her works "Father and Son". The functional and fun Eye Benches sculptures actually provide a surprisingly comfortable place to sit and watch the fountain, views of Puget Sound, the Olympic Mountains and waterfront activity.
Eye Bench Seat
Father and Son Fountain
"Father and Son" By Louise Bourgeois
The "Father and Son" fountain was created by Louise Bourgeois specifically for the Olympic Sculpture Park. It is located at the entrance of the sculpture park on the waterfront by Pier 70. The fountain consists of two figures, representing a father and his son facing each other with outstretched arms reaching toward each other. It is mesmerizing to watch as the water rises and falls first over the father and then the son. The work is a symbol of the sometimes difficult relationship between fathers and sons.
This 320 page book includes 240 illustrations and provides an A to Z glossary of Bourgeois’s work in addition to her life story. Contributors to the book include Deborah Wye, Julia Kristeva, Frances Morris,Robert Storr, Mignon Nixon, Alex Potts, Linda Nochlin, Marina Warner, and Elisabeth Lebovici.
Louise Bourgeois 1911 - 2010
Louise Bourgeois an American artist and sculptor was born in Paris France in 1911. She met and married Robert Goldwater, an American art historian, in 1938 and she moved with him to New York the same year when he returned to the United States. She was known for expressing childhood psychological trauma and troubled family relationships in her work. She enjoyed a long career, working up to the time of her death when she was at 98 years old.
Waterfront Walkway and Benches in Seattle
A Walkway Links the Sculpture Park to the Pocket Beach and Beyond
A sidewalk and bike path along the waterfront edge of the park can be used to explore the waterfront further to the north including the reclaimed pocket beach and nearby Myrtle Edwards Park.
"Shubert Sonata" - By Mark di Suvero
Shubert Sonata is the other kinetic sculpture created by Mark di Suvero on display at the Seattle Sculpture Park. It was completed in 1992 is one of the pieces in his series of works dedicated to famous composers.
Love & Loss
"Love & Loss" by Roy McMakin
The Roy McMakin work "Love & Loss" was commissioned specifically for the Olympic Sculpture Park and completed in 2006. It is one of the most interesting and unusual sculptures in the park. The elevated rotating red "&" symbol can be seen from many places in the park, but a closer look from different perspectives reveals that several elements including the functional seating benches, tables, shapes and a live tree all combine to spell out "love & loss".
"Echo" by Jaume Plensa
The sculpture, "Echo", the newest addition to the Olympic Sculpture park, was installed in 2014. It was created by sculptor, Jaume Plensa and represents Echo, the mountain nymph of Greek mythology.
Beach Habitat Native Vegetation
Recreating the Natural Environment of Seattle
The area near the beach has been planted with native plants that would naturally be found near the waterfront as well as logs and driftwood.
Educational Sign About the Restored Beach
The Restoration of a Beach
The site of the Olympic Sculpture Park was formerly the site of a fuel storage facility. The site was cleaned up by removing 120,000 tons of petroleum contaminated soil. Over the past 150 years, all of the natural shoreline along the waterfront in Seattle has been replaced with a seawall and piers for commercial and industrial purposes. Part of the plan of the Olympic Sculpture Park was to restore a small section of beach to provide a natural beach habitat with native plants. A sign near the beach explains the ecosystem of Puget Sound and the work that was done to restore this one beach.
Olympic Sculpture Pocket Beach - Dip your toes into Puget Sound
Olympic Sculpture Park Beach
This small beach is the result of the effort to restore at least one small piece of the natural habitat of Puget Sound along the heavily industrialized Seattle waterfront.
A Map of Puget Sound Restoration Projects
White Crowned Sparrow - A Pacific Northwest Native Species
Birds and Animals Return to the Natural Habitat
As the native plants in the restored habitats of the Seattle Olympic Sculpture Park grow and mature, native species of birds are returning to find places to rest, live, and nest in this little oasis of nature in the midst of the city.
A Seal Pup Finds the Olympic Sculpture Park Beach
A Video Tour of Seattle's Olympic Sculpture Park - Highlights of the Olympic Sculpture Park
This video produced by KCTS, the Seattle local PBS TV station, shows highlights of the Olympic Sculpture Park and features an interview with the Seattle Art Museum Director, Mimi Gardner.
Link to the SAM Olympic Sculpture Park Website
- Olympic Sculpture Park: About the Park
About the Olympic Sculpture Park
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Planning a Trip to Seattle?
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© 2011 Vicki Green