Seattle’s Public Art

Yesterday, I wrote about the Alexander Calder exhibition which celebrates America’s greatest public-art progenitor of modern times. And, there I also spoke about the Seattle Art Museum’s outdoor, free-admission, Sculpture Park which contains a Calder piece (links are below).

But, there’s more to Public Art in the Emerald City. Seattle was one of the places in America to adopt a percent-for-art ordinance. This happened in 1973, and for more than 30 years, the Public Art program has been considered exemplary.

The Seattle program integrates the artworks and the ideas of local artists into a variety of public settings, advancing Seattle’s reputation as a cultural center for innovation and creativity.

Some of the City’s most beloved public artworks include:

___ Jack Mackie’s famous “Dance Steps” along Broadway on Capitol Hill
___ Isamu Noguchi’s “Black Sun” in Volunteer Park
___ Richard Beyer’s much-decorated “Waiting for the Interurban” sculpture in Fremont
___ Glass-Master Dale Chihuly’s stunning chandeliers at Benaroya Hall and the Seaforms at the Seattle Aquarium

In fact, Seattle is often called the America’s glass art capital, and it’s easy to see why when you know the influence of local, world-class artist Dale Chihuly.

After decades of teaching apprentices, Dale Chihuly is now just one of the well known glass artists whose work graces public spaces in Seattle. What a beautiful legacy.

Additional ways to enjoy the work of local artists include:

___ Historic Pioneer Square district celebrates Art in the Park on the first Thursday of each month, along with a gallery art walk and late night Gallery hours.

___ Or consider one of the City’s self-guided public art walking tours to ensure you don’t miss anything!

Seattle Public Art
Seattle Public Art Walking Tour

The Public Arts program specifies that 1% of eligible city capital improvement project funds will be set aside for the commission, purchase and installation of artworks in a variety of settings.

By providing opportunities for individuals — visitors and local citizens, alike — to encounter art in parks, libraries, community centers, on roadways, bridges and other public venues, we simultaneously enrich everyone’s daily lives and give voice and sustenance to artists.

The Seattle collection includes more than 350 permanently sited, integrated works along with 2,600 portable works.

The Artworks are commissioned through a public process whereby panels comprised of professional visual artists, along with community and city representatives, evaluate the artist applicants.

The city then stewards and maintains its chosen artworks through an ongoing program of coordinated conservation activities (which include inspections, major restorative work and routine maintenance).

Portland, Oregon also has a similar program for decades, and its most famous piece is “Portlandia”, made by the same process as the Statue of Liberty, and second only in size to her. That’s a 3+ hour, easy drive south of Seattle to Portland, or you can use train or bus. Portland is a beautiful city, too, and is well worth your time.

In any city you visit, be sustained by the art all around you. It is one of the great pleasures of traveling!

Alexander Calder article
Seattle Art Museum’s Olympic Sculpture Park

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