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Olympic Sculpture Park
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Olympic Sculpture Park
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2901 Western Avenue
Seattle, Washington
United States

More about Olympic Sculpture Park

soesterling's picture

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New-York based wife/husband design practice Weiss/Manfredi proved themselves wizards of the Emerald City when they magicked a previous brown space into the gloriously green Olympic Sculpture Park.

Open daily from just before sunrise to just after sunset, this park with beautiful views of Mt. Rainier and Elliott Bay is located only half a mile from the Space Needle and we’re sure would impress even the overly discerning Dr. Frasier Crane.  

When looking at the park’s lush carpet of green amidst Seattle’s grey sky and cityscape it’s hard to believe that Olympic Sculpture Park is built on land formerly as bleak. Used for years as an oil transfer station, the parcel for the park was taken over by the Seattle Art Museum (SAM) after then SAM director Mimi Gates (step-mother to THE Bill Gates) told Martha Wyckoff of The Trust for Public Land about the idea while on a fishing trip in Mongolia… apparently flying almost 8,600 miles to fish is a thing rich people do. Having huge collections of outdoor art is also an activity they seem fond of. The idea originated not with Gates, but with fellow SAM trustees and Microsoft cohorts John and Mary Shirley. The story involves the couple staring at their garden (I like to imagine them holding martinis and wearing monocles), realizing that their collection had outgrown their space, and yelling to an assistant to “fetch Mimi on the phone, we’ve an idea!” Actually, everything I’ve read indicates that they are down to earth, generous, and not fussy Monopoly Man types. Truth is, as the main benefactors of the park they donated $30 million as well as numerous pieces from their personal collection to make the dream a reality. They also had naming rights and instead of calling it the “John and Mary are Awesome At Art Park”, named it after the mountain range surrounding the area. 

Though a reflection of a devotion to art and generosity, the park has not been without controversy. The Z-shaped space goes over the freeway, train-tracks, and eventually makes its way down to the beach. I bet you’re thinking that environmentalists threw a fit? The architects specifically designed the waterfront portion as a sandy slope in order to encourage algae growth to feed Chinook salmon, got rid of a bunch of gross industrial waste, and provided a much needed green space Downtown. In this case it was those pesky train enthusiasts who went off the rails. In order to acquire the land for the park, the Waterfront Streetcar, a favorite of tourists and locals alike, had to be shutdown despite efforts by the transit system to redesign their carbarn to fit into the park’s aesthetics. The public railed against the project at the time, but ultimately seem to have lost their train of thought on the issue. 

Despite complaints that you can’t touch or play on the art (but they always let me walk on the Mona Lisa when I visit the Louvre!) the park has become well-loved by the public. If you are in the area and long to see some larger than life art, a breathtaking view of the Puget Sound, or just feel like getting some exercise after too many frappuccinos the John and Mary are Awesome At Art Park Olympic Sculpture Park is definitely worth the free admission. 

 

 

 

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Here is what Wikipedia says about Olympic Sculpture Park

The Olympic Sculpture Park, created and operated by the Seattle Art Museum (SAM), is a public park with modern and contemporary sculpture in downtown Seattle, Washington. The park, which opened January 20, 2007, consists of a 9-acre (36,000 m2) outdoor sculpture museum, and indoor pavillion, and a beach on Puget Sound. It is situated in Belltown at the northern end of the Central Waterfront and the southern end of Myrtle Edwards Park.

The Olympic Sculpture Park is a free-admission outdoor sculpture park with both permanent outdoor sculpture, temporary works, and site-specific installations. The Seattle Art Museum regularly rotates a major artwork at the Olympic Sculpture Park, including installations by Victoria Haven from 2016 - 2017,Spencer Finch from 2017 - 2019, and Regina Silveira from 2019 - 2020.

Check out the full Wikipedia article about Olympic Sculpture Park.