New public space welcomes families
For the organizers of the Olympic Sculpture Park's opening weekend, Jan. 20 and 21, 2007, the Saturday morning sunshine was a big relief. "We were so happy," says Cara Egan of the Seattle Art Museum's Public Relations office. "We were picturing sideways rain and snow."
Contingency tents and umbrellas went unused as both days sparkled with mild mid-winter sunshine that felt every bit like early spring. A crowd of 35,000 wandered the Z-shaped path system, checked out the art installations and the native plantings, and admired the wide-open view of Elliott Bay from the hilltop PACCAR Pavilion.
We wanted to know how the sculpture park works as a destination for families with kids. Although we saw children playing at the base of Alexander Calder's hulking, bright-orange "Eagle," and staring in fascination at the city as revealed through the shifting colors of Teresita Fernandez' glass "Seattle Cloud Cover," touching the works on display is strongly discouraged. Regardless of what you think of this rule, it can add a dimension of stress to the experience if you visit with tactile toddlers or spacey middle-schoolers.
In the end, we found that the children in our group were less interested in the sculpture and more drawn to some of the park's other features. If you want to do more than take a stroll past the art, however, check out SAM's new family programs at the park, from self-guided tour materials to a monthly "Family Fun!" program.
- The sculpture park can be enjoyed as simply a great outdoor space for walking and exploration. Stroll the paths, enjoy the view and note the different zones (areas planted as meadow, valley, grove and shore). Make your way down to the renovated pocket beach at Myrtle Edwards Park and climb on the rocks and driftwood. A rugged stroller or baby backpack are best for traversing bark chip and gravel paths.
- Stop by the PACCAR Pavilion, where kids will spy something interesting right away. Two large woven "baskets," called Capula (by Mexican artist Pedro Reyes) are suspended from the ceiling. And yes, kids can climb inside and hang out. If it's snack time, sit at one of the hot-pink tables inside or outside on the patio. Taste Café is located inside the pavilion, offering a selection of grownup-friendly food to go, nice bakery treats, a kids' menu and drinks. Bathrooms are located here, too. Outside the pavilion, terraced steps planted with grass are another place to sit in the sun, play or eat lunch.
- Take a walk through the Neukom Vivarium, a green-glassed structure located at the corner of Broad Street and Elliott Avenue. Kids can examine the 60-foot-long nurse log housed inside, using instruments from a cabinet inside the greenhouse. Preschoolers will enjoy identifying the forest creatures depicted on the blue-painted tiles that decorate the walls.
- Pick up a free Park Pack at the OSP Admissions Desk and tour the park on your own, guided by materials and activities that encourage kids in grades K-8 to look carefully at the space's design, plants and sculptures.
- The SAM passport leads kids on a hunt through the park for Sammy the Camel's footprints, while learning about the park's features along the way. Get the passports stamped and turn it in for a prize. It's free and available at the OSP or Seattle Asian Art Museum Admission Desks.
- On the third Saturday of every month, kids ages 5-11 and their caregivers are invited to attend a themed Family Fun! Program in the PACCAR Pavilion. Visit SAM's Web site for program details and registration information.
- Olympic Sculpture Park: 2901 Western Ave., Seattle
- Admission is free
- Park: PACCAR Pavilion Garage (entrance on Broad Street), daily 6 a.m.-10 p.m. $6-$12
- Hours: May 1–Sept. 30, 6 a.m.-9 p.m. daily; Oct. 1-April 30, 7 a.m.-6 p.m. daily
- PACCAR Pavilion hours: Closed Mondays year-round. May 1-Sept. 30, Tuesdays-Sundays, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; Fridays, 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Oct. 1-April 30, Tuesdays-Sundays, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.
- Directions, parking options, bus routes, park maps, online tour and other info: www.seattleartmuseum.org