Arts | Outings + Activities | Rainy Day Fun

SAM Art Stops, From Free Outdoor Fun to 500 Years of Graphic Arts

Everyone from toddlers to cynical teens will find something to love at Olympic Sculpture Park and SAM this summer

Art making at Olympic Sculpture Park's Summer at SAM
Art making at Olympic Sculpture Park's Summer at SAM on Saturdays. Photo credit: Robert Wade

Summer at SAM — free art fun on Thursdays and Saturdays

Magical Olympic Sculpture Park is worth a visit any time, but every summer, Seattle Art Museum ups the ante by planning a full slate of free activities at the park on Thursday evenings and Saturday afternoons, with food trucks at the ready on Thursday evenings to provide picnic fare. Here are the highlights for this year. 

Summer at SAM kicked off on Thursday, July 7 at 6 p.m. at Olympic Sculpture Park with music from Deep Sea Diver, a viewfinder-making workshop, kids’ corner art station, and food trucks.

Courtesy Seattle Art Museum

The series continues with music, food trucks, art workshops and tours each Thursday through August. Special themed nights include Dog Night (July 21), and Bike Night (Aug 4) . A much-anticiapted highlight this year is August 11's Sculptured Dance performance, where Pacific Northwest Ballet will debut five specially choreographed, site-specific dances in which the performers interact with sculptures in the park.

Summer Saturday programs at Olympic Sculpture Park include free yoga and Zumba classes and themed open studio art sessions. Saturday, July 23 is Family Field Day when the usual activities will be supplemented by community partners and soundtracked with music from local family band Pig Snout.

Finally, from July 7 through August 11, SAM’s Thursday night movie screenings will focus on "Cary Grant for President," screening a mix of the handsome, comedic genius’ best-loved and least-known movies, including the kid-pleasing Bringing Up Baby.

Note: Seattle Asian Art Museum's free first Saturday programs are on hiatus for the summer, but return in October. Check SAAM's website for updates.  

Graphic Masters exhbit. Photo credit: Natali Wiseman

500 years of graphic art at Seattle Art Museum

The Book of Genesis Illustrated by R. Crumb, 2009, R. Crumb, pen and ink on paper, 18 × 14 1/2 × 1 3/4 in. © R. Crumb 2016. Collection of Lucas Museum of Narrative Art.

For teens and their parents, a reason to visit the bricks-and-mortar version of Seattle Art Museum this summer is a provocative new exhibit titled Graphic Masters, the first-ever major show SAM has devoted to the medium of graphic arts. 

A personal perspective: When I was in high school, I rode the bus downtown to my local art museum to see Annie Leibovitz’s photography every weekend that the exhibit was in town. I stared at Donald and Ivana Trump’s insincere smiles in a room so garishly opulent everything looked fake, and wondered how she convinced them to submit to such a revealing portrait. I smiled at Whoopi Goldberg, who in those days seemed like the only black actress in Hollywood, submerged in a bathtub of milk.

Not everyone understood my fascination with “pictures of celebrities,” but for me and several of my classmates, that exhibit was a seminal experience, an introduction to the unique storytelling power of visual art. Graphic Masters offers that experience for today's tweens and teens.

Defining graphic arts as two-dimensional works relying on line as a way to create visual impressions, the exhibit spans 500 years of art history through 400 works of six major artists. The artists — Dürer, Rembrandt, Hogarth, Goya, Picasso and R. Crumb — are all, with the exception of Crumb, better known for their work in other media, but were each aware of and built upon the graphic arts developments of their predecessors. 

Graphic Masters explores how the graphic arts provided these artists with both greater freedom of expression and more reliable income than more traditional formats, and demonstrates the development of graphic art as a narrative form.  

Teens and mature tweens will revel in the biting social commentary that characterized graphic arts from the very beginning, but parents should know the subject matter is not remotely all ages. 

Even the physical layout of the exhibit is challenging for younger kids. Graphic Masters is a huge exhibit, stretching across eight galleries, with each of its more than 400 works hung at adult eye level. The highly detailed works are meant be viewed up close, and scrutinized. Even some older kids may not have the stamina to view the entire exhibit in one go. 

Despite the caveats, Graphic Masters is an excellent exhibit for young people. Instead of a stuffy brochure, an excellent comic-style booklet illustrated by Tim Marsden explains the printmaking techniques used by the artists in the exhibit. Magnifying glasses mounted on wall racks are available to allow visitors to uncover hidden details through close examination of the prints. A sign at the entrance to the exhibit encourages visitors to take photos and suggests the hashtag #GraphicMasters. And the exhibit website provides an excellent and approachable introduction the artists, their techniques, and the cultural relevance of graphic arts.

Graphic Masters is not for everyone, but for certain young adults — the avid graphic novel reader, the compulsive doodler, the budding cynic — the exhibit could be the gateway to a lifetime of art appreciation. 

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