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Town Hall Seattle: Arts & Culture Series

Town Hall’s Arts & Culture series elevates the voices of local artists while bringing world-renowned cultural icons to Seattle audiences. The series celebrates music, photography, sculpture, philosophy, heritage, and traditions around the world that enrich our lives.

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Jun 16, 2022

When the Seattle Art Museum opened the Olympic Sculpture Park on the urban waterfront in 2007, it changed the way people could interact with art and experience the city’s environment. The fact that it’s free and open to everyone makes the park one of the most inclusive places to see art in the Pacific Northwest.

The sculpture park contains pieces like Alexander Calder’s red sculpture The Eagle, Jaume Plensa’s giant head Echo, and Neukom Vivarium, a 60-foot nurse log in a custom-designed greenhouse, among many others. Although many people believe that the greatest work of art at the park is the park itself and the way it connects with its surroundings. Because of the efforts of the Seattle Art Museum and the city, instead of being filled with private condo buildings, this former industrial site has become a welcoming part of the waterfront for the public to enjoy sculptures, activities, and the gorgeous Elliott Bay views.

The new book Seattle’s Olympic Sculpture Park: A Place for Art, Environment, and an Open Mind, pays homage to the interconnected spirit of the park. Mimi Gardner Gates — the director of the Seattle Art Museum (1994–2009) at the time of the Sculpture Park’s conception and creation — edited this collection of writings and images about the park and how public-private partnerships can create innovative civic spaces. Other contributors include Barry Bergdoll, Lisa Graziose Corrin, Renée Devine, Mark Dion, Teresita Fernández, Leonard Garfield, Jerry Gorovoy for Louise Bourgeois, Michael A. Manfredi, Lynda V. Mapes, Roy McMakin, Peter Reed, Pedro Reyes, Maggie Walker, and Marion Weiss.

Seattle Times journalist Lynda V. Mapes and SAM curator Catharina Manchanda joined Gates in discussion about the remarkable waterfront park and how it might inspire future innovation in civic spaces.

Mimi Gardner Gates was director of the Seattle Art Museum for fifteen years and is now director emerita, overseeing the Gardner Center for Asian Art and Ideas. Previously, she spent nineteen years at Yale University Art Gallery, the last seven-and-a-half of those years as director. She is a fellow of the Yale Corporation; Chairman of the Dunhuang Foundation; Chairman of the Blakemore Foundation; a trustee of the San Francisco Asian Art Museum; a trustee of the H. John Heinz III Center for Science, Economics and the Environment, and serves on the boards of the Yale University Art Gallery, the Northwest African American Museum, the Terra Foundation, and Copper Canyon Press. Dr. Gates formerly chaired the National Indemnity Program at the National Endowment for the Arts and served on the Getty Leadership Institute Advisory Committee.

Lynda V. Mapes is a journalist, author, and close observer of the natural world, and covers natural history, environmental topics, and issues related to Pacific Northwest indigenous cultures for The Seattle Times. Over the course of her career she has won numerous awards, including the international 2019 and 2012 Kavli gold award for science journalism from the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the world’s largest professional science association. She has written six books, including Orca Shared Waters Shared Home, winner of the 2021 National Outdoor Book Award, and Elwha, a River Reborn.

Catharina Manchanda joined the Seattle Art Museum as the Jon & Mary Shirley Curator of Modern & Contemporary Art in 2011. Notable exhibitions for SAM include Pop Departures (2014-15), City Dwellers: Contemporary Art from India (2015), Figuring History: Robert Colescott, Kerry James Marshall, Mickalene Thomas (2017), and Frisson: The Richard E. Lang and Jane Lang Davis Collection (2021). Prior to joining SAM, she was the Senior Curator of Exhibitions at the Wexner Center for the Arts in Columbus, Ohio. She has also worked in curatorial positions at the Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum, St. Louis; the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum; and the Philadelphia Museum of Art. She is the recipient of numerous international awards including an Andy Warhol Foundation grant, Getty Library Research grant, and others.

Buy the Book: Seattle's Olympic Sculpture Park: A Place For Art, Environment, And An Open Mind from University Book Store

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