Discovering outdoor art in seattle southside
By Anne Erickson
Exploring Seattle Southside’s public art is perfect free-form fun for a fall or winter afternoon. It’s an adventure that reveals history, natural beauty, flying saucers, even a bit of lust. Don’t worry, you can bring the kids. You’ll need a car to see a lot. Or a bike if you want a workout with your culture. The route can be between you and your GPS but an art-drive that begins at Redondo Beach and wraps up near Georgetown will take a couple of hours, longer if you’re a plaque reader and sculpture toucher. Be sure to add time for a couple of unofficial masterpieces that you might want to stop and savor.
The Redondo Arch pictured above (Artist: John T. Young, Location: Redondo Beach Dr. S. and Redondo Way S. Des Moines, WA) is a ‘Gateway Between Land and Sea’ made of granite boulders tensioned together with steel cables. Good art interacts with its environment: in 1991, the Puget Sound waves framed by this arch washed out the pier beneath it. The 8-ton sculpture was rescued by cranes, and still contains whitecapped waters and the Olympic Mountains in its stony embrace.
Another unlikely art location – a grocery store parking lot – is home to The Big Catch (Artist: Richard Beyer, location: just south of S. 218th St. Des Moines, WA) This exuberant sculpture portrays a happy fisherman hugging a fish. The fish has human breasts, and that’s where the fisherman’s hands are firmly planted. A plaque tells a story of true love turned fish tale, and the local rumor is that the legend was spun by the late Richard Beyer to placate the scandalized. Don’t worry, it’s barely PG.
Maury Island Incident Mural
Flying saucer fans must make a stop at the Maury Island Incident Mural (Artist: Zach Paul, location: 605 South 223rd Street, Des Moines WA.) It’s in an unlikely place, tacked to the side of a shipping container, but the location makes this weirdly glorious mashup even cooler: Hovering UFOs, a PNW beach, a boat, and a ‘Man in Black’ standing mysteriously on a dock. It’s based on an alleged sighting over Puget Sound back in 1947, and it makes you want to believe.
Hop on Des Moines Memorial Drive S. to head to your next stop. If you’re lucky, you’ll hear a roar behind, then see a jet eclipse the sun above, since this road briefly parallels Sea-Tac Airport's south runways. Keep your hands at 10 and 2 and feel the rumble as a flying aluminum tube packed full of humans safely ends a journey of thousands of miles. Art is where you find it.
Highline Botanical Garden & SeaTac Community Center
Highline SeaTac Botanical Garden features 10 acres of some of Mother Nature’s best creative work: a forest of giant bamboo, burbling brooks, and a peaceful Japanese garden are just a few of the discoveries you’ll find beyond the iron maple leaf gate. Right across the street from the garden entrance, at the SeaTac Community Center stands The Gathering Place (Artist: Ray Jensen, location 13735 24th Ave S, SeaTac, WA) - a red frame shaped like a schoolhouse, complete with ABC’s on the wall and real bell in the steeple.
Robert Morris Earthwork
Earthwork, designed by Robert Morris, is located at the former Johnson gravel pit and is number 30 out of 100 surplus county gravel pits. Morris's design reclaims the space for the sake of art, carving terraces into the triangular-shaped landscape and honoring the forest that existed before the site was developed as a gravel pit.
Duwamish Hill Preserve
Wrap up your art adventure at Duwamish Hill Preserve. This rocky knob along the Duwamish river was saved from industrial development in 2000 and is now a natural area and a learning space. Head to the northwest corner of the park and sit on a log bench and let Journey through the Seasonal Rounds teach you what was here before cars and jets. This etched granite calendar combines a western 12-month year with the natural cycles followed by indigenous people to mark seasons. A close look reveals the best time to harvest clams, and when to pick ripe salmon berries.
Climb to the top of the knob for more art – benches along the trail tell stories of the natural, native and industrial history of the spot. At the top, take in views of Seattle’s sculptural skyline to the north, and Mt. Rainier’s mass to the south. A perfect way to wrap up a Seattle Southside art ramble celebrating the creative energy of both humans and nature.
Don't miss this unique view!
North of Des Moines find a pocket park near the marina with a walk-in kaleidoscope. Marinascope (Artist: George C. Scott, location: South 227th St. entrance to Des Moines Marina) is an old shipping lane buoy with colored glass portholes.
Step inside and find yourself surrounded by psychedelic sea life. The Des Moines Art Commission supports a rotating array of sculptures, and a downloadable walking map to help with your art treasure hunt. CLICK HERE for map.