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Category Archives: Public Art

Going backstage with Arts Dawg

I never imagined that my coworkers would try to set me up on a date, let alone six dates. Not just that, but that I would be tasked with blogging about each date. But, over the next six months, that’s exactly what will happen.

The idea started when a few of us in the Alumni Association talked about the Arts Dawg ticket package as a great date night. With six great campus arts events, pre-show receptions, and backstage talks with the brains behind the productions, the package would be a treat for any arts-loving couple.

That’s when my coworkers suggested that I take a date to each performance and write about the experience afterward. After a bit of cajoling, I went with along with the idea.

You’re probably wondering who I am by now. My name is Matt, and I recently moved to Seattle from the Portland area, where I spent the previous seven years with my local newspaper. I enjoy hiking, watching the TV series “Community,” and going to Paseo Caribbean Restaurant in Ballard.

Along the way, I will write about the dates, sure. But more importantly, I will write about the Arts Dawg experience, which includes six great performances.

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Public Art at the UW—UW Tacoma

UW Tacoma Library

The UW’s campus in Tacoma, which serves 3,600 students, dwells right in the heart of the historic downtown. Incorporating former places of business and warehouses (the library was once a municipal power plant) between the Tacoma Dome and the business district, UW Tacoma’s campus is an exciting mix of styles, and is covered with fantastic art.

UW Tacoma’s website hosts a guide to a walking tour of campus, and if you’re in the neighborhood, you should check it out. Maybe even make a special voyage out, now that road trip season is nearly upon us. Here are some sights to see around the UW Tacoma campus:

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Public Art at the UW: Department of Forensic Morphology Annex, by Cris Bruch

Department of Morphology Annex by Cris Bruch

Planted near the shrubbery at the north end of Parrington lawn, the Department of Forensic Morphology Annex presents the most basic of questions to the viewer: what the heck is that? The Annex resembles a cross between some alien creature dredged up from the squiddy depths and the silver-skinned antagonist from “Terminator 2.” Curvy like a root vegetable, but silver plated like a B-29, the Annex resembles nothing natural on this earth.

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The Burke’s Got Everything…

The Burke Museum and the School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences maintain an amazing collection of fish. From spiny deep-sea anglerfish to a unique albino dogfish, the University of Washington Fish Collection comprises rows and rows of bottles and basins of fish preserved in alcohol in a fireproof, explosion-proof, earthquake-proof facility. Open to scholars and researchers, KING5 recently had a behind-the-scenes look:

Or you can take a look here:

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The Burke really DOES have everything!

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Public Art at the UW-James J. Hill

From his planter overlooking Stevens Way, his dour countenance glares out over passers-by, and does not seem to approve of what he sees. Who is this person, whose oversized likeness looms over the sidewalk?

James J. Hill: Mogul

James J. Hill, railroad magnate, seems to have only a tenuous connection to the Pacific Northwest, though his impact on the region was widespread. His home, and the home of his most influential corporation, the Great Northern Railroad, was in Saint Paul, Minnesota. However, Hill’s railroads and businesses helped connect the natural resources of the West to markets in the East. Known as “the Empire Builder,” Hill was noted for building a railroad without taking money from the federal government, making him unique among his peers. He would finance the building of towns along his rail lines, ensuring that his lines had markets at both ends. Hill also had a reputation for slashing his workers’ wages and was the target of several strikes.

While Hill displayed many of the quirks of character railroad barons were prone to, many of the people living in the Northern Plains and Pacific Northwest owed their livelihoods to him. Hillsboro, North Dakota, Hill County, Montana, and the Hillyard neighborhood of Spokane are all named for him. Hill himself only visited Seattle once, in 1909, to be the keynote speaker at the opening of the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition and to witness the unveiling of the statue bearing his likeness.

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Public Art at the UW: Everything that Rises by Martin Puryear

In this series of periodic blog posts, we will examine the pieces of art that delight and befuddle visitors to campus and add to the unique beauty of the University.

The art that graces the UW campuses falls into three broad categories: Private gifts, like Red Square’s iconic Broken Obelisk; Commemorative works, like the busts and statues honoring figures prominent and obscure that are scattered all over campus; and works commissioned under the Art in Public Places program. Art in Public Places directs ½ of 1% of the budget of state buildings (including University buildings) to public art. These commissioned pieces are frequently the most visionary—and controversial—works seen on campus. Today’s subject falls in this last category.

"Everything that Rises" by Martin Puryear

"Everything that Rises" by Martin Puryear

I stumbled across Everything that Rises, a 23-foot bronze sculpture by Martin Puryear, standing sentinel in the plaza in front of the Physics/Astronomy building, while visiting campus with my 2-year-old daughter (she likes walking around the rim of Drumheller Fountain while Daddy holds her hand and envisions having to fish her out and explain to Mommy why the baby’s soaking wet). I found it visually arresting—smoothly curved among the sharp angles of the buildings, darkly reflective against the brighter brick, mysterious and evocative. It seems precariously balanced on its end, like a spinning top. The work’s radial symmetry draws the viewer to walk around it, making the background of buildings and mountains seem to rotate around the stationary pole of the sculpture.

My daughter liked the satisfying PONG it made when she slapped her hands against the hollow bronze.

Fans of the Southern gothic writer Flannery O’Connor will recognize the title of the work as the first part of the title of one of her short stories, “Everything That Rises Must Converge,” itself drawn from theologian Teilhard de Chardin’s writing about seeking unity with God. Puryear, however, warns against drawing to direct a connection between his work and its title. “I don’t want to be overly literal. Flannery O’Connor is one reference, but it’s obviously an incomplete phrase as it is. I like to give my work titles that are provocative and open up possible ways for people to look at the work and think about the work rather than close it down.”

Everything that Rises was not universally praised when it was unveiled. Described dismissively as a peanut or a bowling pin, or mistakenly identified as a depiction of a p-orbital (one of the paths electrons take around the nucleus of an atom), much of the controversy rose from the simplicity of its form. Former UW campus art administrator Kurt Kiefer, in a 2001 interview, opined, “A lot of people, when they see something simple, think that the artist is trying to pull the wool over their eyes. In fact, some artists choose to make things simple for a reason. They want to create something that makes people slow down. If an artwork makes people stop for a minute, then it’s done its job.”

Blog Down to Washington is full of stories & conversations about the University of Washington community, curated by your friends at the UW Alumni Association.

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