No matter what kind of opinion you hold on modern art or art education, the Olympic Sculpture Park plans to shake up your assumptions this summer. Whether your family is looking for learning opportunities to fight the summer slide or affordable ways to fill unstructured days with creative fun, the sculpture park's summer programs — which kicked off last Thursday — are ready to transform your attitudes about what “art” and “learning” look like in action.
First and most notably, local artist Dan Webb is exploring woodcarving as a reductive exercise this summer. Working from a shack he built himself on the grounds of the park (it's right on the main path, almost underneath the iconic red Alexander Calder sculpture), he plans to use an entire fir tree to carve a series of ever-smaller sculptures, titled Break It Down.
Connecting to themes of another work at the Sculpture Park — the well-loved nurse log of Neukom
Vivarium — Webb's performance will create a closed circle of natural resources. He will carve a tree, thinned from an 8-year-old grove on site, into tinier and tinier pieces until nothing but sawdust remains. The sawdust will then be used as a growing medium for seeds collected from the original tree. You may talk with your kids about natural cycles or negative space, or you can let them ask the artist questions themselves; Webb will be working on site Tuesdays through Fridays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. through the end of August.
How Ghosts Sleep: Sam Vernon's installation
Next, be sure to check out artist Sam Vernon's installation, which fills the PACCAR Pavilion at the top of the park and thematically connects it with the other two Seattle Art Museum locations. Vernon, who also designed the entry for SAM's exhibition Disguise, uses motifs inspired by the Art Deco architecture of the Asian Art Museum and the Seattle Art Museum's collection of African masks. She has fitted these into a series of geometrical shapes which overlay images of ghost characters, effectively masking the subjects of the artwork. The piece will be on display until March 6.
As it has in past years, Olympic Sculpture Park has free events planned for each Thursday evening from 6 p.m. - 8 p.m. through August. Each Thursday night will feature live music performances, an art activity and a tour of the park led by local artists. Food trucks will be on hand as well as the park's own food service, Many of the activities are themed. Key dates are July 16's Eco Night, when environmental organizations will be on hand to teach eco-friendly hiking and composting skills, and July 30 Dog Night, when the art activity will involve pet portraits and the MaxMobile, a 38-foot school bus filled with adoptable animals, will be parked on site. August 27 is Bike Night, with – you guessed it – a bicycle theme.
Each Saturday you and your kids can do zumba or join a yoga class for free in the park, and participate in an artist-led creative activity or tour of the park. July 18 is Kids' Eco Day, when King County's EcoConsumer will be available to talk about using recycled materials and an environment-themed storytime will be added to the normal Saturday activities. August 1 is Kids' DIY Day when families can participate in DIY culture by carving wearable pendants with Dan Webb, planting some seedlings, or just engaging with the story at storytime. http://www.seattleartmuseum.org/summer#aug1 The Finale Festival from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on August 29 will tie in with the Native American tradition of welcoming the salmon back to the rivers at the end of summer.
If you go ...
Where: Olympic Sculpture Park is located at 2901 Western Ave, Seattle. Parking is available in a garage underneath the PACCAR Pavilion (enter on Broad St. near Western Ave.) but if you can find a spot, metered street parking is slightly cheaper.
Cost: Admission to the park is always free.
Tips: Taste Cafe, in the PACCAR Pavilion, is open every weekend from 10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and during Thursday-night programs. There are lots of dining options in the neighborhood, including The Old Spaghetti Factory across the street, and the park itself is filled with perfect picnic spots – just try to stick to the grass and benches instead of the artwork, which can be damaged by touching or climbing.
Tips; Don't forget both sunscreen and a light jacket – the wind coming off Puget Sound can be quite cool even on a sunny day.