I visited the new Sculpture Park yesterday. I have to say, it’s awesome. The view of the Puget Sound is wicked, as is the view of the new gleaming condo towers of my native Belltown. I’m not art guy (velvet Elvis, anyone?), but our new outdoor art museum is heads and shoulders above its ugly-ass companion at 1st and University Street downtown.
Some of the sculptures are better than others. Weird-looking wheel thing? Check. Big, orange swoopy deal? Check. Artwork designed for the sole purpose of giving Dori Monson something to talk about? Check. Perhaps the best of it is the part that isn’t finished. The grass hasn’t grown in yet (its winter) and it’s too muddy to finish some of the shoreline stuff, but it looks like a winner. When it’s all done folks will be able to walk on the beach where Elliot Bay meets Seattle. A natural waterfront where you can dip your toes in? What a deal!
To think this whole place used to be owned by Unocal. The site was polluted as hell, so they had their work cut out for them. Thanks to private donors and some federal monies sent home by my home-girl Patty, the whole idea became reality. If that’s pork, well, gimme some mo’!
There are some downsides. The hot dog cart I saw probably won’t be there in a month, which is too bad. We need more hot dog carts in Seattle, and not just the ones that are open at night in Belltown and Pioneer Square. Thankfully the park has a little cafe where you can get a salad and, uh, a panini. I’m not dissin’ them, I’m just saying… Would it kill you do put some meat on a grill? Some of that kick-ass deli mustard with onions and kraut would be awesome. I’ll have to settle for “line caught tuna, roasted peppers, arugula, hard boiled egg, butter lettuce & lemon remoulade on herb-sea salt baguette.” Sigh.
I didn’t see any basketball courts at the new park. You might be saying to yourself, “you’re an idiot, Will. It’s a friggin’ sculpture park. Of course there’s no hardtop.” That’s not the point! As Seattle is graying population wise, our city leaders don’t see the need to build soccer fields, baseball diamonds, or basketball courts like they used to. Park space is much more likely to be used as so-called “green space”, for “non-specific, non-programmed” uses.
The basketball court at the Regrade Park was decommissioned in favor of a dog park. While the change was welcomed in the neighborhood (the dogs chased the crack heads away), I’m lamenting the fact that there is just a single basketball court in the general downtown area meant for public use. Sure, sculptures are nice, but I need someplace to shoot hoops. Lots of other big cities make a point of building parks designed for “active use”, but after Seattle was hounded by a bunch of old folks for trying to build lots of sports fields at Magnuson Park, I don’t see anything happening soon.
Shortcomings aside, the new park is pretty damn cool, and it’s worth visiting. I’m sure Knute Berger will write a column about how we should have built a tank farm there (oops, looks like he already did!). Joel Connelly mostly likes the park, but got a bit irritated with all the “fawning over” and attention it’s getting. Personally, I don’t care if some architecture writer in New York likes it. Those folks like anything that’s weird and new (just read the reviews of our Downtown Seattle Public Library. Those NYC folks loved it. Meanwhile, I STILL can’t find the fucking fiction section. Yeesh.) Joel can take heart that if the Seattle P-I folds, they can just roll that big shiny globe south a block and he’ll be able to visit it anytime he wants.
Take heart, people of the Emerald City: when private fundraising with no help from Seattle City Hall can do something as amazing as the Olympic Sculpture Park, just think of the possibilities…
Seattle Art Museum Sculpture Monorail anyone?