Noticed: Down The Rabbit Hole

Welcome to Noticed, in which we spot connections among, within, and without the walls of the museum.

The last few years in Seattle, it’s been the talk of gardeners, naturalists, parkgoers, and urban dog walkers alike: What’s up with all these rabbits everywhere?

That question was also the headline of a recent feature in the Seattle Times’ Pacific NW Magazine, in which reporter Brendan Kiley investigated the seeming population boom across Western Washington of the Sylvilagus floridanus, or Eastern cottontail rabbit. His journey brought him to the domain of one very special rabbit: King Bunny.

That’s the name given by SAM staff to a particularly large, healthy, and seemingly prolific rabbit who resides in the Olympic Sculpture Park with his many friends and offspring. Kiley spoke with SAM’s Facilities and Landscapes Manager, Bobby McCullough, about King Bunny and Co.’s frolics around the nine-acre sculpture park, where they chomp on grass and clover, attempt to avoid predators and excited leashed dogs, and, we hope, enjoy the monumental sculptures that fill their home. King Bunny can be tough to spot, so don’t miss SAM’s latest installment of “Botany with Bobby,” our TikTok series exploring the sculpture park, in which Bobby tracks his friend down for all of us to see. McCullough also shared his perspective on what to do—if anything—about their increased presence.

“The park’s S. floridanus population has spiked in the past three or so years, McCullough says, and bunny-noticers have divergent attitudes. Some feel protective, calling for a gardener to ‘Do something!’ if they find a rabbit half-chewed by a raptor. Others regard the critters as a problem, suggesting McCullough set out traps and poison bait. ‘As long as I’m working here, that won’t happen,’ he says. ‘I get more joy from seeing them sunning themselves on the grass than frustration at chewed-down fern fronds.’”

McCullough’s live-and-let-live approach to the rabbits must have had an effect, because once we started seeing bunnies around the sculpture park, we noticed that they were simply…everywhere. Back indoors at the Seattle Art Museum, local artist Anthony White celebrates his Betty Bowen Award win with his solo exhibition, Limited Liability. The artist is known for his densely packed compositions that he painstakingly “paints” with PLA (a melted biodegradable plastic, primarily used for 3D printing). Crammed with recognizable products, name-brand logos, and digital logos, they pull you down the rabbit hole of our increasingly intertwined analog and digital lives. They’re also a few literal rabbits dotting these Y2K-nostalgia landscapes: a self-portrait of the artist in the all-too-familiar pose of gazing at a smartphone screen in bed includes a number of bunnies hopping around his aura like phantoms; up above is a ransom-note scrawl saying, “SILLY RABBIT, YOUR IPHONE STORAGE IS FULL.” And the smallest painting in the exhibition hangs above them all at the entrance like an idol: An Energizer Bunny seen behind a cracked cell phone screen, questioning the relentless pursuits of capitalism.

Of course, bunnies aren’t always harbingers of doom. Kiley’s story also notes the diverse cultural meanings of rabbits: “Old stories characterize the rabbit as arrogant (Greece), cowardly (Tibet), a great warrior (China), tricky (lots of places) and prototypical prey (lots of other places).” He notes their association with fertility in early Christian Europe and their appearance as a resilient “catch-me-if-you-can” figure in Puget Sound stories of Snoqualmie, Puyallup, Muckleshoot and other traditions. SAM’s global collection is a veritable rabbit hunt; one work on view right now at the Seattle Asian Art Museum is a beloved late 19th-century Japanese netsuke of an ivory hare (we know, it’s technically a different species, just go with it) with real amber eyes. Barely an inch all around, it’s a noticeably smaller presence than King Bunny, and it’s not as difficult to spot as it’s protected in a glass case, but in its tiny form and glittering eyes it makes a charming and surprisingly powerful impact. We think it’s wise to keep a close eye… just in case.

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Associate Director of Public Relations

Images: Installation view of HYPNOSIS (detail) as part of Anthony White: Limited Liability at the Seattle Art Museum, 2022, Photo: Alborz Kamalizad. Netsuke modeled as a hare with amber eyes, Japanese, late 19th century, ivory, amber, 1 1/16 x 7/8 x 1 1/8 in., Duncan MacTavish Fuller Memorial Collection, 33.438, Photo: Elizabeth Mann.

Muse/News: Studio Time, Singing Stories, and Russell’s Legacy

SAM News

Following up on their review of the “captivating” Alberto Giacometti: Toward the Ultimate Figure, the Seattle Times makes a very cool connection to the exhibition’s focus on Giacometti’s studio space by going behind-the-scenes into the creative spaces of five local artists, all of whom have connections to SAM: Marita Dingus, Romson Bustillo, Barbara Earl Thomas, Aramis O. Hamer, and Jake Prendez. Thanks to Jerald Pierce for the peek into their practices!

Just opened at the Seattle Asian Art Museum: Beyond the Mountain: Contemporary Chinese Artists on the Classical Forms. Capitol Hill Seattle Blog’s Alex Garland captured photos at the press preview of the dynamic exhibition and KNKX’s Grace Madigan reported on its connection to a University of Washington class taught by the exhibition curator, Foong Ping. 

“What’s up with all these rabbits everywhere?” asks Brendan Kiley for the Seattle Times’ Pacific NW Magazine. For the story, he met up with Bobby McCullough, Facilities and Landscape Manager at the Olympic Sculpture Park, to go in search of King Bunny, a resident bunny who may be responsible for a good number of the 500+ rabbits who make the sculpture park their home. P.S. Check out our video series Botany with Bobby for more stories from the park.

Dhyana Levey for Tinybeans with “The Ultimate Guide to Seattle’s Free (& Cheap) Museum Days,” including the downtown museum and the Asian Art Museum, both of which welcome children 14 and under for free—all the time!—and the Olympic Sculpture Park, which is just plain free to everyone. 

Local News

“Nick Garrison, a theatrical force in Seattle and beyond, dies at 47”: For the Seattle Times, David Schmader writes a fitting tribute for a beloved star gone too soon.

The Stranger’s Charles Mudede wrote a visual arts story! Everyone gather round! Here’s his take on the Romare Bearden exhibition now on view at the Frye Art Museum. 

Crosscut’s Black Arts Legacies project, which launched in June, is still delivering. Here, project editor Jasmine Mahmoud writes about singer Ernestine Anderson, who had a voice like “honey at dusk.”

“Ernestine was jazz and blues personified — she musically participated in both worlds,” daughter [Shelley] Young says of her mother’s musical impact. “Singing the blues involves storytelling,” she continues, “and she loved telling a story.”

Inter/National News

Speaking of studio visits: it’s a recurring series at Artnet.

Beat the heat with this listicle: “ARTnews’ 10 Best Art Books for Summer Reading.”

The world lost several important artist-activists last week: actors Mary Alice and Nichelle Nichols and N.B.A. legend Bill Russell. Explore Russell’s legacy in several articles from the New York Times, including this one on his pioneering activism.

“[Former Seattle SuperSonic Spencer] Haywood said in an interview on Sunday that he and Russell would often dine at a Seattle restaurant called 13 Coins after road trips, and Russell would regale him with stories about the civil rights movement.”

And Finally

Michelangelo Matos on the sources of Beyoncé’s “Renaissance.”

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Associate Director of Public Relations

Photo: Alberto Giacometti working on the plaster of the Walking Man, 1959, Photo: Ernst Scheidegger, Archives, Fondation Giacometti, © 2022 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ProLiterris, Zurich.

Checking in on Environmental Restoration Efforts at the Olympic Sculpture Park

Salmon, sea lions, seals, rabbits, hummingbirds, eagles, and Cooper’s hawks—SAM’s Olympic Sculpture Park is a refuge for Seattle’s wildlife. Today is World Wildlife Conservation Day, a holiday intended to spread awareness about the natural world and its habitants, and we’re offering an update on ongoing habitat restoration projects taking place at the park.

In 1910, the park’s site was developed as a fuel storage and transfer facility byUnion Oil of California (UNOCOAL). By the time the museum purchased the property in collaboration with the Trust for Public Land in 1999, the soil and ground water had been severely contaminated by petroleum products. In acquiring the land, SAM resolved to return the site to a functioning ecosystem, while simultaneously creating a safe space for public recreation and the display of outdoor sculptures.

As SAM trustee, collector, and arts philanthropist Martha Wyckoff previously explained to SAM, “Community can include everyone in Seattle and anyone who comes to visit. As we developed the project, we realized it also included the salmon, and the plants, and the future, by making sure there’s more green, natural settings in the downtown core for all to enjoy. Where else has a major city art museum created salmon habitat in partnership with a national nonprofit land conservation group?”

After an exhaustive international search featuring 52 applicants, Weiss/Manfredi Architects of New York was selected to design the park. The designers developed a 2,200-foot Z-shaped configuration to create four distinct landscapes that reflect the native ecosystems of the Pacific Northwest. This innovative design allowed for the implementation of several environmental restoration projects, including brownfield redevelopment, the creation of a salmon habitat restoration, and the capture and use of rainwater on-site.

Construction at the Olympic Sculpture Park © Seattle Art Museum.

On land, designers introduced a three-foot-thick layer of engineered soil that dramatically reduces runoff and allows rainfall to percolate and drain out to Elliott Bay. The planting of dense tree canopies, under-story vegetation, and ground covers also contribute to the retention of rainfall above the soil’s surface. By restoring the original topography of the land, the designers were able to reintroduce microclimates that allow for greater diversity in the plant and animal life which occupies the park.

Meanwhile, on the shoreline, designers focused on the creation of a nearshore habitat which serves as a refuge and foraging ground for juvenile Chinook salmon that migrate through the Green and Duwamish Rivers. They also opted to relocate rip-rap rocks from the shoreline to develop a pocket beach which created a shallow subtidal habitat bench suitable for the planting of native vegetation.

Since opening to the public in 2007, these environmental restoration projects have only continued to flourish. As SAM‘s Facilities and Landscape Manager Bobby McCullough explained, at this point, it’s all about maintaining the work first implemented while the park was being designed.

“Our efforts these days are mainly focused on watching the park grow and letting it do what it was meant to do,” he said.

The shoreline of the Olympic Sculpture Park. Image: Joe Finn.

That doesn’t mean there isn’t more progress to be made in returning the park and others across Seattle to their original environmental conditions, however. For the last year, Bobby has participated in a taskforce formed by Seattle Parks and Recreation aimed at creating and grooming more pollinator corridors throughout the city.

“The City of Seattle is really leading the charge right now in rethinking the landscapes of Seattle’s parks,” he said. “We’re often walking the waterfront, attending meetings, and coming up with new ideas about how we can increase the number of pollinator species that inhabit our parks.”

For 14 years, the Olympic Sculpture Park has served as a haven for art- and wildlife-enthusiasts alike. In addition to hosting thousands of visitors each day, the park often sees researchers from the University of Washington studying the growth of juvenile salmon and other organisms near the shoreline, as well as members of the Seattle Audubon Society observing its natural wildlife populations.

“The growth in wildlife that we’ve seen in the last few years around here has been really fantastic,” Bobby said. “Looking forward, I think these numbers are only going to grow.”

 Lily Hansen, SAM Marketing Content Creator

Image: Joe Finn.

Tour the Olympic Sculpture Park’s Trees

As the weather shifts toward spring, it’s time to experience the hopeful awakening of all the plant life around us. Below, Facilities and Landscape Manager Bobby McCullough takes you on a tour of a selection of the trees at the Olympic Sculpture Park, which includes four distinct habitats: The Valley, the Grove, the Meadow, and the Shore. This innovative design achieves a wide range of environmental restoration goals, including brownfield redevelopment, creation of a salmon habitat, extensive use of native plantings, and the capture and use of rainwater on-site. McCullough shares some ways the many plants in the park contribute to making the park an important green space in downtown Seattle.

Dawn Redwood (Metasequoia glyptostroboides)

An ancient tree with an amazing story. Fossils of the needles have been found in dinosaur footprints. Thought to be extinct, it was rediscovered in China around 1944. This deciduous conifer drops all its foliage in fall after turning a beautiful golden color. A small handful of these can be seen on the valley floor.

Bigleaf Maple (Acer macrophyllum)

“Big” is the perfect word, as far as maples go. Nothing about this abundant species is anything but big. With leaves often the size of dinner plates, these stately trees can easily grow to 120’. Very common in many Seattle parks. The mature, gigantic canopies act as host to a variety of ecosystems. There are four of these in the sloped wedge overlooking Bay street.

Pacific Crabapple (Malus fusca)

A little known tree, often merely a large shrub, is remarkably slender in form. This specimen is a unique addition, as it was chosen from the nursery of the late Richard Haag, a landscape architect who was best known for designing Gasworks Park, the Bloedel Reserve, and founding the University of Washington’s landscape architecture department. This tree was procured because of its perfect “V” shaped trunks that help make Roy McMakin’s Love & Loss sculpture complete.

Pacific Dogwood (Cornus nuttallii)

This variety is actually the Cornus “Eddies White Wonder.” A hybrid of the native, it is a heavily flowering deciduous tree with large, white, rounded bracts (flowers) that appear in spring. These showy trees can be found on the west slopes of the Valley and are always a sight to behold when in bloom!

Lupine (Lupinus latifolius)

Just one of many native Lupines, this variety is an attractive semi evergreen with interesting foliage and lovely flowering stalks that we always look forward to seeing in the Meadows at the Olympic Sculpture Park throughout the summer months.

Paper Birch (Betula papyrifera)

Also known as Canoe Birch or White Birch, this short lived (pioneer) species is right at home on the waterfront. It is named for its thin white bark that often peels in paper like layers from the trunk. It was once used to make canoes after being hollowed out by the Native peoples.

Oregon Grape (Mahonia aquifolium)

Oregon’s state flower, the Oregon grape, is widely used throughout the park for its’ reliable early blooms and hardiness. The long hedge that greets you upon entering the park along the west side of the Pavilion was planted during the park’s second year, successfully acting as a human and canine deterrent. In their natural form, these would easily grow to 8 to 10 feet tall.

Salal (Gaultheria shallon)

Perhaps Salal is our most important and common native shrub. Ranging from Alaska to California, it is abundant in the most widely varied habitats, and is planted in many areas of the park. April into July is the main blooming period. This gives rise to the purplish, blackish sticky berries valued by humans and animals alike often into December.

Bobby McCullough, Facilities and Landscape Manager

Photos: Bobby McCullough
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