Alexander Calder's brightly-hued Eagle stands out in
the park.

The newly opened SAM Olympic Sculpture Park nestled in downtown Seattle gives visitors pause from fast-paced city life.

Named for its views of Washington's stunning Olympic Mountains, the SAM Olympic Sculpture Park was Seattle's largest undeveloped waterfront property until taken over by the Seattle Art Museum in conjunction with the environmental non-profit, The Trust For Public Land. The nine-acre park includes numerous on-going environmental restoration projects and houses art and sculptures by internationally renowned artists such as Louise Bourgeois, Beverly Pepper, Mark Teresita Fernandez, Richard Serra and Tony Smith. With a view of the waters of Puget Sound, the Olympic Mountains and the Seattle's cityscape, the SAM Olympic Sculpture Park lets visitors appreciate art as it interacts with everyday life outside of the confines of museum walls. It is proof positive that the city works to offer culture and make art accessible to everyone.

Roxy Paine's Split is composed completely of steel

New York-based WEISS / MANFREDI Architecture / Landscape / Urbanism concepted the parks' unique Z-shaped design, which encourages movement and offers various perspectives on the artworks and the surrounding water, city and landscapes along its path. The park's location in the heart of the city is refreshing; the absence of crowded utilitarianism and overt consumerism resounds amidst the new developments, office parks and shopping malls that litter downtown. Having a sculpture park downtown allows commuters scenery to enjoy on their way to the office and gives city dwellers instant access to a cultural landmark. Each piece of art provokes a dynamic dialogue, with ironic, contrary, serious or even humorous everyday life as its backdrop. Roxy Paine's Split, a towering sculpture of a stainless steel tree, is placed across the street from new condominiums; there is humor in the placement of a man-made imitation of nature alongside rows of identical housing units. The work in this outdoor space frames the cityscape in such a way that visitors see the surrounding structures and objects function as a part of the park experience. This interaction of specific art pieces, perspectives and views within, and the functional materials and objects outside the park play an important role in the success of the space.

A SAM Olympic Scuplture Park "Don't Touch" sign.

Like many sculpture parks around the country, the SAM Olympic Sculpture Park prohibits visitors from touching the artwork to prevent damage (There was a recent graffiti incident at the park that only made the rules for preservation of the installations stricter). This creates a dilemma in making the park a multi-sensory experience and begs the question, "What is the function of public art?" For visitors to appreciate art outside the formalities of a gallery or museum setting, it's pertinent that they be able to interact with the art more than just visually. Richard Serra's patina Wake is the perfect example of untouchable artwork that the viewer is compelled to touch because of its massive size, placement and texture. Adding physical contact to the viewing experience of a tactile artwork helps the viewer further interact with and understand a piece.

Pedro Reyes' graphic interactive installation inside
the Pavilion.

The most dynamic installation is Pedro Reyes Capula XIV, Capula XVII and Evolving City Wall Mural located inside the PACCAR Pavilion. His large, interactive vinyl sculptures were woven by Mexican craftspeople and, when placed together with his two-dimensional mural, show an interesting marriage of form, spatial relationships and function. To better understand the art, SAM offers hour-long tours of the park with a SAM docent. For those wanting to make a day of the park, there is also a SAM Shop and SAM Taste Café on the premises.

Wake by Richard Serra is made up of five massive
steel forms that manage to be graceful.

So, what is the function of public art? The SAM Olympic Sculpture Park wants to prove that art is for everyone and how it functions is up to you.

Olympic Sculpture Park
2901 Western Avenue
Seattle, WA 98121

The Olympic Sculpture Park is
free to the public Park Hours:
May 1 - September 30: 6 am - 9 pm daily, October 1 - April 30: 7 am - 6 pm daily

The brooding abstract Sky Landscape I by Louise
Nevelson makes a nice contrast to Calder's Eagle.

the fine arts Interior Design Photography

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