We don’t necessarily recognize the magnitude of an experience in the moment, until we get a chance to look back and realize how that experience or moment was pivotal in shaping how we see the world and ourselves in it. Having the opportunity to reflect on 2020 through this piece in the Seattle Times helped me recall what carried me through the past year.
There were some incredibly big moments, such as becoming the Director of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion at SAM, but truly what carried me through the past year were the small moments. It was the simple gestures and findings that held space for me to breathe and discover untapped creativity as a coping mechanism, both for myself and for others in my community. Utilizing my passion to connect, convene, and build community took on a whole different meaning, as I needed to relearn how that would even translate in our new reality.
I wondered how I would continue to center my values of joy and optimism during a time filled with so much pain, grief, and reckoning. But those glimmers of hope—whether it came from my amazing colleague Rayna who built the Little Purple Library at The Station in Beacon Hill, my neighbor Rosie who gave me hand sanitizer in mid-March (basically gold!), and my friends who all rallied to join a car parade for my Mom who turned 70—those are the moments and events that will shape the way that I live my life, do my work, and hold myself in gratitude to the community I have the privilege of being a part of, and in service to.
I hope that all everyone who has found inspiration in art or community in the Seattle Art Museum while they stayed home with SAM is able to reflect on the stress and intensity of the last year in order to identify and act on the positive things that will influence and uplift the future.
– Priya Frank, SAM Director of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion
SAM Docent, Mary Wallace is taking us to Seattle’s waterfront to wander the Olympic Sculpture Park and do some close looking at the monumental sculptures that call the park home. Mary Wallace is one of SAM’s talented and trusted docents. Docents volunteer a ton of their time learning about the art at SAM to lead tours for art lovers of all ages. While we can’t have in-person tours at the moment, we hope you will follow Mary’s tour on your phone the next time you visit the Olympic Sculpture Park.
We’ll start first with a big shiny tree. It is called Split and it is a tree made of steel. The branches are made of 20 different sizes and the tree was designed by artist Roxy Paine on a computer. Look closely and notice lines, shapes, colors, and texture. Compare Split to the Garry Oak that’s planted next to it. Make a list of the similarities and differences between these two trees. What about the sculpture looks real? What looks unreal? Is this tree realistic or abstract? Think about a way to describe this shiny tree. If you touched it, how would Split feel? Can you smell it? Could you taste it? You can see it. Could you hear wind going through its branches? Would the branches move? Why do you think the artist made this tree? The artist, Roxy Paine, likes to make artificial versions of nature. He thinks it is interesting to control nature and this is his way of doing it. What are other ways that we control nature: building dams, burning forests, having wolves go back into forests. Would you like to have a tree like this in your yard? Why do you think it is called Split?
Take a picture of this tree with your mind and pack up your senses. What were those senses again? Put it all in your memory bank. We are going down this hill and into that greenhouse where we will meet another tree.
Welcome to Neukom Vivarium where a nurse log lives.
Once upon a time, there was a beautiful tall evergreen tree that was about 100 years old. One winter there was a lot of snow, and rain, and wind and the tree was blown back and forth for many days. Eventually it was blown down. It laid on the forest floor for about 10 years growing all sorts of things on it. One day, an artist named Mark Dion, saw it and decided that it must go to live in a museum. It lives inside this building now. But how does it live if it cannot get rain, sun, wind and soil? Look around and find the sprinklers, the green tinted glass and the fans.
Once a year, a gardener brings dirt to put all around the tree. How is this tree like the one you just saw? How is it different? Is this tree alive or is it a dead? Is it an artificial tree like you just saw? If it is dead, how come things are growing out of it? What do you think is going on here? This is a nurse log and it is decomposing all the time. That is how things grow from it. What is decomposing and what makes it decompose? Since it is decomposing all of the time to support new growth, eventually this nurse log will disappear. Any stick that has growth of moss, lichen, or fungi is also a kind of nurse log. Is this art or is it nature? Do you wonder if this was a good idea to bring this tree out of the forest and put into a museum? Why do you say that?
Remember what Split looked like and what the nurse log looked like. Which one would you like to have in your back yard? Make room for this nurse log next to Split in your memory bank.
Walk uphill through the Meadow. You’ll pass a big red sculpture on the right, called The Eagle as you head to the big sculpture at the end of the path on the left. Stop once or twice to look at it as you walk. How does it change as you get closer? What shapes, colors, textures, materials do you see? Is the piece realistic or abstract? What do you make of this? Why do you say that? What does it remind you of? Why would the artist make this? What would you call it?
Its name is Bunyon’s Chess. What senses are you using to enjoy this? Sight for sure, and maybe the smell of the salty air that surrounds the art. The artist likes to use wood to remind you of forests and waters that keep them green and healthy. He also likes to use materials like steel and wood from buildings that have been torn down. The artist likes for his sculptures to move. When the wind is strong, what part of this sculpture do you think moves?
Add Bunyon’s Chess to your memory bank and leave room for one more sculpture.
Walk east and down the steps into the Valley. There is a large sculpture in front of you. Think about describing it: color, shapes, texture, materials. Is it realistic or abstract? Walk down the steps to the gravel. What senses will be used to look at this piece: sight, and maybe the smell of the trees and plants around it. We can’t touch, but what does your sight tell you about how the surface might feel? How is it like Bunyon’s Chess that you just left: both are made of steel. Richard Serra is the artist who made this piece and he calls it Wake. What are three definitions of the word, wake: wake up, wake from a boat, a ceremony to honor a dead person. The artist made this piece in honor of a friend who died.
There are five parts of Wake and the artist invites you to run and/or walk through them. Remember to look up to the sky as you do. When you get to the other end, share how you felt and what you thought going through it. Why did the artist make five parts instead of one? How would it feel going around just one part? Did it look different when you got to the other end? Is Wake realistic or is it abstract art?
There are steps on the left. Go up those steps towards the building at the top. Stop twice on your way up, turn around and look at Wake. Does it look different? Why do you say that? Go to the railing at the top and look back at Wake. How does Wake look from the railing? Do you see anything different in the top of Wake?
How are Bunyon’s Chess and Wake alike and how are they different? Which one would you like to have in your yard?
Have a seat in the grass or in the red chairs outside of the PACCAR Pavilion. Sit and look at the views. Think about one thing you will remember from your tour today. Think about the reasons to remember them. Was it because of the story, or the way the sculptures were alike or different, or the shapes you saw, or the materials, or the way it made you feel? Take one sweeping view of the Olympic Sculpture Park as you leave and wave goodbye to all of the art you saw.
While you can’t visit City of Tomorrow: Jinny Wright and the Art That Shaped a New Seattle currently, you can still experience the artful legacy left behind by Jinny Wright. Discover outdoor art in Seattle with this tour of public art acquired or commissioned by The Virginia Wright Fund. The fund was created for Jinny by her father Prentice Bloedel in 1969. Jinny stated, “Commissioning works of art for public spaces was unheard of in the late ’60s.”
Follow along to see the outdoor art that shaped a new Seattle through the initiative of Jinny Wright.
Broken Obelisk, Barnett Newman, (1963-67) University of Washington
The representation of the obelisk as broken and inverted is intended as protest and critique of power and colonial ambition. It’s as resonant today as it was in the midst of the Vietnam War when the artist created the work.
Iliad, Alexander Liberman, 1984 Seattle Center
See this piece from all angles by walking both around and through the portal of this bright red constellation of circular forms.
Moses, Tony Smith, 1975 Seattle Center
Originally commissioned as a plywood maquette in the 1960s by the Contemporary Art Council—another brainchild of Jinny Wright—the welded steel piece, coated in black paint was realized with the help of the Wright Fund.
Wandering Rocks, Tony Smith, 2016 Olympic Sculpture Park
Make sure to walk around this five-part installation for a sense of how the artist plays with volume and perspective and geometric forms.
Bunyon’s Chess, 1965 & Schubert’s Sonata, 1992, Mark di Suvero, Olympic Sculpture Park
Jinny Wright greatly admired Mark di Suvero. Bunyon’s Chess was Jinny’s first private commission made for her garden in the 1960s, while Schubert’s Sonata was commissioned by Jinny and the museum to be installed at the edge of Puget Sound.
Adjacent, Against, Upon, 1976, Michael Heizer Myrtle Edwards Park
This art by Michael Heizer combines cast concrete forms and granite slabs quarried in the Cascade Mountains.
Head to the PACCAR Pavilion and you’ll spot two more works from Jinny’s personal collection. Ellsworth Kelly’s Curve is installed on the entrance wall to the Pavilion and Roxy Pain’s stainless steel tree Split can be seen in the meadow below.
Hammering Man, Jonathon Borofsky, 1992 Seattle Art Museum
Conclude at SAM’s downtown location where the Hammering Man hammers 24/7, only resting once a year on Labor Day. This piece was commissioned for In Public: Seattle 1991 and supported by the Wright Fund.
Extend your tour to Western Washington University in Bellingham for a campus sculpture tour—Jinny’s Wright Fund brought spectacular commissions by artists such as Nancy Holt, Bruce Nauman, Richard Serra, and Mark di Suvero to campus for all to enjoy.
Earlier this month we had to cancel a book signing event featuring highly regarded Seattle potter, Deb Schwartzkopf. We were so sad to miss this chance to learn about her innovative techniques and see her newest collection of work in person, but the good news is, you can find her new book online at SAM Shop! Learn more about this artist and her book below.
Explore and gain new skills in pottery with local artist Deb Schwartzkopf in her recently published book, Creative Pottery: Innovative Techniques & Experimental Designs in Thrown & Handbuilt Ceramics. This book provides tutorials in the basic tools and techniques for beginners, while also refreshing foundational skills with new techniques and inspiration for experienced potters. The introductory chapter includes essential information, such as: setting goals, building a basic tool kit, setting up a wheel, and making and using templates. Later chapters add complexity through ideas such as decorative edges, bisque molds, and throwing closed forms.
Deb Schwartzkopf introduces these foundational and new techniques to potters through step-by-step photos, templates that can be used by readers, and beautiful photos of her work and the work of other active American potters. In each chapter, she profiles one or two potters, showing images of their work and asking them questions about their techniques, inspiration, and artistic process. These profiles provide readers with context about current work in the field and illustrations of how the techniques and ideas taught in the book can be employed. Through this book, potters can learn how to create many forms, including: cake stands, bud vases, goblets, teapots, pitchers, dessert boats, and juicers, all illustrated with photos and clear instructions.
Schwartzkopf is a studio potter, instructor, and active artist in Seattle. Her studio, Rat City Studios, has evolved into a communal clay establishment, where she teaches classes, creates her pottery, and mentors assistants. Schwartzkopf was born in Seattle, earned her MFA from Penn State University, and taught at schools including: University of Washington, Ohio University, and Massachusetts College of Art and Design. She was named Ceramics Monthly and Ceramic Arts Daily’s 2019 Artist of the Year. With her pottery, she works to make tableware that infuses life with purposeful beauty. Learn new techniques or inspire an artist you know with this new book, on sale now at the SAM Shop.
The Seattle Art Museum believes that Black lives matter and stands in support of Black families, friends, colleagues, and communities across the country as they grieve and seek justice for the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and all victims of police brutality. We mourn the lives lost and, as we say their names, we recognize that we cannot be silent.
Systemic and institutional racism pervades every corner of American life, including cultural institutions such as the Seattle Art Museum. SAM recognizes the inequities faced by Black Americans, and we acknowledge the work that SAM must do and the impact of our work on our community. Since the 2000s, SAM’s Education & Community Engagement Committee has helped guide SAM’s programming and community partnerships. We will continue to listen to this inspiring group of advocates as we make changes to better lead by example within our arts community and city to create a country where Black people and other people of color are not oppressed.
In 2017, the museum’s Equity Team and leadership integrated an equity statement of the museum’s official values into SAM’s strategic plan, which guides all we do. It reads:
We are responsive to cultural communities and experiences, and we think critically about the role art plays in empowering social justice and structural change to promote equity in our society. We are dedicated to racial equity in all that we do.
We know that we can do more. We must begin by looking at ourselves and working to uncover the structural biases within our own organization.
Art is a crucial way of sharing unique perspectives, reminding us of the past, and envisioning future possibilities. Throughout history, art has been used for education, revolution, politics, propaganda, emotions, subversion, and sharing transformative experiences. SAM believes that art always contains a message and cannot be neutral. We rely on our collection, exhibitions, and the artists we work with to reflect our institutional values and we can, and will, take tangible actions to enact necessary change in our society.
We are committed to:
Striving for racial equity in our exhibitions, educational programs, hiring practices, and all activities at the museum
Sharing work by Black artists in our collection and in our communications. For the next week, we will not be promoting the museum on social media, in order to amplify the views of organizations, artists, activists, and individual Black voices
Continuing to increase the acquisition and exhibition of more works by artists of color
Featuring artwork by Black artists in the following exhibitions and installations in the next year:
There are many ways to show support and solidarity at this moment. As a part of the Seattle art community, SAM would like to encourage you to support local Black-led arts organizations through donations and engagement. This list is by no means comprehensive and we encourage you to add to it in the comments.
Since 1985, Seattle Public Schools has held the Naramore Art Show to share the works of its arts students and to celebrate their achievements with their community. Floyd A. Naramore, whose name is honored by this exhibition, was a visionary architect who invested deeply in his community and in the education of students. He designed over 22 schools, including Roosevelt, Garfield and Cleveland high schools, and several middle school buildings.
Seattle Art Museum has been a partner in this program for many years now, providing support and promotion of the exhibition. Around this time of year, artists and their family and friends would gather at SAM for the highly anticipated celebration and awards ceremony, normally filled with live music, refreshments, and performances. This time-honored tradition was dedicated to celebrating the creativity and excellence of each participating artist. The museum’s lobby would be abuzz with joyous chatter as students’ excitedly perused the halls looking for their art, and beaming as they saw their work—a piece of themselves hanging on the walls.
But with growing concerns of the COVID-19 global pandemic and social distancing guidelines, our small team of SPS administrators and SAM educators feared this would be the first time in over 30 years the exhibition might not be shown, at least in person. As stay home orders began, extended, and schools were forced to cancel the remainder of the school year in person, it became clear that our fears had come true. As we came to terms with this fact, we also reminded ourselves that Naramore is the culmination of a school year of hard work by art students and teachers. We were committed to creating space, where none had existed before, to honor the time, energy, and voices of young artists. Thanks to hard work from administrators across SPS, we were able to turn that desire into a reality. Naramore continues on as a virtual museum on the SPS website and includes over 200 works of art by students from across the district. The show will be on view through June 30, 2020 and can be accessed online here! Additionally, students are invited to continue sharing artwork they’ve been creating at home during quarantine on Instagram under #artistsofsps.
You are also invited to join us for the virtual celebration on Thursday, June 4th at 5:30 P.M. The celebration will include a viewing of the artwork, keynote by Superintendent Denise Juneau, student video diaries, and more! No registration required, just tune in on YouTube, stream on the Seattle School District webpage, or tune in to any local TV channels:
Comcast 26 (standard-def) 319 (hi-def)
Wave 26 (standard-def) 695 (hi-def)
Century Link 8008 (standard-def) 8508 (hi-def)
At this time more than ever, we need to center the creativity and insight of our young people and amplify their voices for the world to hear. From the devastation of COVID-19 to relentless police violence against black and brown people, our community is in crisis. Art has the power to express our fears and our joy; document our history; shape our dreams, and so much more.
We are forever grateful to these young people who have given us the gift of their perspective and ask that our community take the time to reflect on their wisdom and leadership, so that we can all do our parts in dismantling injustice.
Molly Cain, Baby Gun
Ever since I was a kid I’ve been kinda obsessed with the dichotomy between the innocence of children and the harsh violence of guns. Things like nerf guns and videogames were fun as a kid but what are they saying about gun violence? That is what inspired my piece. I wanted to highlight the soft innocence of the toddler hand vs. the violence of the hand motion.
Remi Adejumobi, Overcoming
I was inspired by the idea that Martin Luther King symbolizes peace. Our society needs lass hate and violence and more peaceful thoughts and actions. The colors flower draws attention to hope, to the possibility that we can make our country a more beautiful place to live in if we support each other more and find ways to overcome our negative feelings.
Camellia Maxson, Pear
I created this piece because I wanted to show emotion in another way besides the face. I liked the idea of someone who is so angry squeezing a pear until it bruises and leaks juice. I chose markers because it is a medium I enjoy working with due to the markers quick drying nature and flat colors yet easy to blend when needed. The main challenge was drawing the hand squeezing the pear.
Ella Maurer, The Beginning
I created this piece to capture the emotions felt during the beginning of my relationship, while connecting with others who have felt similar emotions, past or present. I want to spread comfort thought knowing that others have felt caution, growing, trust, love, and more.
Download SAM virtual backgrounds to use for your next Zoom meet up, happy hour, party, or hang out. Choose from beloved spaces like the Porcelain Room or Tea Room downtown, the stunning Art Deco Asian Art Museum building, or use an aerial view of the Olympic Sculpture Park as your backdrop. We miss you and hope that seeing yourself sitting in these SAM spaces will fill you with good art vibes until you are able to come sit in our galleries and visit our museums in person!
Seattle artist Gregory Blackstock is known for his encyclopedic works identifying and labeling the world around him. Blackstock uses pencils, markers, and crayons to create his orderly visual lists. He documents and explores items from the natural world such as birds, animals, and plants, as well as items from the manmade world including clothing, cars, and buildings. Each item is clearly labeled and organized, informed by his research from books and work with local librarians. You can see one of Blackstock’s detailed works in The World Landmark Buildings of Greatest Histories & Heights Recorded Puzzle, for sale online now at the SAM Shop. This 500 piece puzzle includes beloved buildings such as the Eiffel Tower, the Leaning Tower of Pisa, the Taj Mahal, and Big Ben.
Gregory Blackstock’s artwork is also being featured online through Greg Kucera Gallery. In his fifth solo show at the Greg Kucera Gallery, Blackstock identifies and labels a variety of subjects including crows, shoes, fireworks, lilies, and spices in his limited-edition prints from original drawings. Check it out online through June 27. These works were printed by Stephen Rock, of Rock’s Studio, who is also an artist from SAM Gallery. Blackstock’s work was also featured at the 2019 Seattle Art Fair.
Experience the visual balance and variety of forms that characterize Gregory Blackstock’s art through the SAM exclusive puzzle or this cool t-shirt available online from the SAM Store.
Whether seemingly big or small, sustaining connection is more critical than ever. Jenae Williams, Exhibitions and Publications Associate, and Seohee Kim, Division Coordinator for Education and Public Engagement, recently started writing letters to stay connected to their community in quarantine. They’ve shared a Q&A of their wonderful project below.
Not only do handwritten letters support the US Postal Service, brighten up someone’s day, and remind others that they are not alone, but right now your letters can support community by showing love to Chinatown-International District! If you’re feeling inspired, please check out Love Letters to Chinatown-International District #CIDLoveLetters. Share your love letters, and the Wing Luke Museum will collect and showcase submissions in a digital exhibition as part of the Wing Luke Museum’s Resilience Campaign. Deadline is May 18! May is Asian Pacific American Heritage Month so we hope you will take some encouragement and inspiration from this post and write a letter to Seattle’s International District or support the USPS by sending a letter a friend or loved one!
What first inspired you to write letters to people in quarantine?
Jenae: I genuinely miss seeing my colleagues at SAM every day, and I was first inspired by my managers Chiyo Ishikawa and Tina Lee, who do so well at checking in on many of us at SAM. Later, I read about how the US Postal Service is in danger of going out of business, which upset me deeply. USPS provides 600,000 jobs, delivers essential items (medicine! voting ballots!), and it’s the only mailing service that reaches every household across the nation, no matter how rural. I am also reminded that compared to private mailing services, sending a letter or priority mail with the USPS service is equitable. It costs me the same amount of money to send a letter to a friend locally as it does to send a letter to my grandma in Hawaii.
Seohee: I’ve wanted to do something like this for a while, but I’d always brushed it to the back of my mind because I was unsure of when or how to begin. However, after over a month of being indoors and focusing solely on work, I needed a simple but creative outlet to allow myself to detach from the screen and practice self-care. Then, I was having a brainstorming video call with my dear colleague, friend, and muse, Priya, who showed me the beautiful postcards she’d been designing for her close ones. Insert mind spark here. A few days later, I saw Jenae’s heartwarming Instagram story showing support to USPS with her letters to friends and family, and I felt the need to (finally) take action.
Where can we buy our own Ellsworth Kelly stamps?
Jenae: USPS released these stamps in 2019, so they may be hard to find. But check your local post office. Some locations, like mine, still have leftover sheets in stock. I’m excited for the Ruth Asawa stamps that are scheduled to be released this year!
Tell us about the stationery/paper that you’re using for this project?
Jenae: I’m using whatever paper I have at home right now. My mom gave me a pad of stationary for this project that pays homage to the early days of airmail so I’m using that first. With this paper, I like that after you’re finished writing, you fold its edges up, and it turns into its own envelope. I also have Hello Kitty stationery from my childhood that I’ll use later as well.
Seohee: I have been a hoarder of all things stationery since middle school, so I’ve been making use of my ridiculous collection. Among the bunch, my go-to have been these Daiso coloring books that have various images of flowers on the front and postcard layouts on the back of each page. In my free time and whenever I’m feeling stressed, I tear out a page to color while bopping to some good ol’ 90s K-pop. It’s been surprisingly healing for me, and possibly the only routine I’ve maintained over the past four weeks.
What was the response to your letter-writing project after you posted about it on Instagram?
Jenae: A lot of people responded with their address, but some just responded to say that they loved the stamps. I’m so glad. Maybe they’ll go out and buy their own. I especially love that I received notes from friends who I haven’t talked to in a long time.
Seohee: Excitement and support! I received quite a few responses from friends around the country with their addresses! To be honest, I wasn’t expecting them to be as open to sharing such personal information, but that might just stem from the trust issues I’ve developed after watching nothing but serial killer documentaries on Netflix for the past two months.
Have you found writing letters to be much different than writing emails? Any early letter-writing tips?
Jenae: I send work emails every day, but letters are definitely a different form of writing. I’m still learning to embrace the time and thoughtfulness it takes. If your thoughts start to run amok (this happens to me frequently) as you’re writing, just go with it. I have to remind myself that it’s OK to show my inner life sometimes.
Seohee: Yes! I’ve found that they’re much more personal because I’m not writing with a specific intent in mind as I would for, say, a work email. It allows me to pause and really think about each person and what individual messages I want to send that might bring even a tiny bit of joy to their day. Not exactly a tip, but I’ve been having fun picking out individual postcards based on the image of the flower and their meaning. It adds just another hint of personalization to the entire experience. Also, I’ve been laminating my postcards with packing tape before mailing them out so that people have the option to wipe them down with a sanitizing cloth upon receiving them—just another COVID-19 precaution from a germaphobe.
Finally, what are you hoping to get from all of this?
Jenae: I hope one of my letters will be a bright spot to someone in quarantine and help them feel connected to me/humanity in a small way.
Seohee: I hope something as small as this could be a reason for someone to smile amidst the chaos that has become our new normal. If we can keep the web of connection and small joys going/growing, even better!
Images: Lauren Farris, Seohee Kim, Jenae Williams.