Olympic Sculpture Park and Kids

Today’s New York Times article by William Yardley highlighted the sculpture park’s no touching of art policy as an example of how Seattle is struggling to  become kid-friendly as the population of children here grows. As a mother of two extremely active and curious little girls, I can honestly say that my kids love playing at the Olympic Sculpture Park.  I am admittedly a little biased because I work for the museum but the park has a special sense of place that I know kids can sense.

My girls love Calder’s “Orange Birdie”, making little play areas out of driftwood on the beach, eating lunch on Roy McMakin’s “Love and Loss” and running up and down the amphitheatre steps until their little legs turn to jello.  We are even bringing 10 kids to the park this weekend to celebrate my daughter’s 6th birthday, and in two weeks there will be a fabulous Earth Day festival for kids, just one of many free programs for families and kids that we put on every year.

I know that many people would love to be able to climb and touch the sculptures as part of the experience, but if they really knew they were harming the chances for their grandchildren and great-grandchildren to be able to enjoy these works of art in the future, they might reconsider.  Part of a museum’s mission is to preserve great works of art for future generations and that is how we view the works in the sculpture park.

In the park’s planning stage, SAM spent years researching other museum sculpture park policies and found that the common practice around the country was  no touching  the art.  Sarah Clark-Langager, director of the gallery and sculpture park at Western Washington University in Bellingham said in the Seattle PI a few years back that “We can hope that people learn to treat outdoor sculpture with respect. When I’m giving students tours, I ask them if they’d want someone to write on their cars.”


A sign in MOMA’s sculpture garden for last summer’s Richard Serra exhibition. Photo by Nicholas Dorman

Cara Egan, Director of PR at SAM

Father and daughter enjoy Teresita Fernandez’ Seattle Cloud Cover Photo by: Tim Aguero