One beautiful aspect about Seattle is that there are truly endless ways to explore the city. There are many museums, famous monuments, tours, and restaurants to visit. However, if you are looking for something unique to do, Art in Seattle’s Public Spaces by James Rupp offers tours of public art for each of Seattle’s many popular areas. He offers a unique way for you to learn some of Seattle’s history through its artworks. Katie Felton and I, marketing assistants of UW Press, were lucky enough to tour the waterfront for its public spaces, and we discovered some striking art.
In the beginning of our tour, we visited the memorial of Ivar Hagland. The sculpture shows Hagland in a captain’s hat and seamen’s jacket feeding seagulls french fries, which was one of his favorite pastimes. He’s a perfect companion to sit next to as you watch people pass by or enjoy a nice lunch of fish and chips from Ivar’s Fish Bar. Ivar Hagland (1905–1985) was known to be a restaurant owner and entrepreneur who advocated for the city and its people. He was very well liked by the Seattle community. After his death in 1985, many of his friends pooled together the funds to build a statue in his name because he was so beloved by them. Since 1912, this is the first memorial of a Seattle citizen placed in a public space. Richard Beyer sculpted the memorial out of aluminum and bronze and helped leave Ivar Hagland’s legacy behind.
Waterfront Fountain will not fail to leave an impression of awe on the sightseer. Made from a combination of cubic structures, with water cascading off the tall bronze artwork, it is a piece to appreciate. Waterfront Fountain is the last fountain that James Fitzgerald made for Seattle. He designed it with his wife, painter Margaret Tomkins, in October 1973. Sculptor Terry Copple and welder Art Sjodin collaborated with the couple on the piece, due to their past work with Fitzgerald. This work was given to Seattle in memory of Edward M. and Margaret J. Harrington. The Harringtons came to Seattle in 1921 and, like Ivar Hagland, had an undying love and devotion for the city.
As Katie and I approached one of our last artworks, we were delighted to see a colorful mosaic at the bottom of the staircase at the Bell Harbor International Conference Center. Called Danza del Cerchio, Seattle artist Ann Gardner created this piece using glass mosaics and ancient Byzantine techniques. The mural is 48 feet long, with bright, multicolored disks in every color of the rainbow. Ann Gardener first drafted this design on paper, then transferred it to the mosaic form. This piece put us both in a better mood by the time we left it; it is a piece that can brighten up anybody’s day.
Many people often think to go to the waterfront because there are a number of fun things to do there. However, not many notice the art that lives within the area. Katie and I were both grateful to go on this tour for that very reason. Katie has lived in Seattle for several years, and I have lived here my whole life, but neither of us had noticed this hidden world of art. It was synonymous to going on a treasure hunt—no doubt! We realized that many precious pieces of the past go unnoticed and unappreciated. Every day, people pass by these artworks—but how many recognize the piece, appreciate its presence, and know why it’s there? Most likely, not many. What James Rupp has compiled for us is a gift to explore the greater depths and personalities that reside and resided in Seattle. It gives us a way to see how artists expressed themselves through their artwork, or how and why individuals were remembered. It’s more than just seeing art, but a glimpse into why things are the way they are.
The tours offered by James Rupp in Art in Seattle’s Public Spaces present something unique to both the out-of-town tourist and lifetime Seattleite. If you are a tourist, you can explore the city’s art history in depth by seeing how interwoven the art is within the streets of Seattle. As an old-time Seattleite, art lovers can appreciate the hidden gems that cover the entire city in open spaces and hidden crevices. The waterfront tour takes about an hour to complete, with seven destinations along the many piers of the waterfront. However, there are many tours that you can take that span from seven to more than thirty public art pieces. Depending on your curiosity and adventure levels, you can break up the day with a short art tour while sightseeing the rest of the city, or devote an entire afternoon to exploring the art in Seattle’s public spaces.
Perfect for art and architecture lovers, as well as visitors and newcomers to the city of Seattle, Art in Seattle’s Public Spaces by James Rupp showcases the wealth of urban art to be freely enjoyed by all.