Lance Kagey’s Top Spots to See Great Art in Washington State

Lance Kagey’s Top Spots to See Great Art in Washington State
Where the Rails Meet the Sails montage. Photo Credit: Lance Kagey

I have traveled extensively to the major art centers of the world—Paris, London, New York, Los Angeles, Amsterdam, Zurich, Glasgow, Vienna, Mainz, Venice—to experience firsthand the works of the major contributors to art and design.

I believe by being a diligent observer and a passionate learner, understanding of creativity and its larger meaning will reveal itself. This is the value of the action of going-to-see-art. 

Let me encourage you to take a Public Art Roadtrip — from Tacoma and back again. Here’s my suggestion, but maybe plan your own. Some of these works I have seen and some just seem intriguing, but that’s the power of curiosity and exploration — it creates the surprise of discovery.

Start at Rotator’s latest piece, which commemorates the centennial of the Port of Tacoma and the vibrancy of Commencement Bay—Swell, Fireman’s Park, Tacoma

Walk the Prairie Line Trail which is the northern terminus of the Transcontinental railroad, now a linear park through Downtown Tacoma. Don’t miss the incredible 17,000 sq. ft. mural by Jessilyn Brinkerhoff and Esteban Camacho Steffensen, Working Forward Weaving Anew.

Many of Washington State’s art collections are sited at schools around the region. A couple that I’m intrigued to see include Migration, by Hai-Ying Wu, at Moses Lake High School in Moses Lake. The symbolism of growth and expanding horizons seem evident in this piece made up of two columns—one of branches reaching up and one of birds flying.

Circle of Friends, by Harold Balazs, is at Mt. Spokane High School in Mead. Tim Girvin, a leading graphic designer, said this, “Talking to Harold, learning, opening up and learning to consider the idea that doing something with art is something that can be built upon, extended horizontally. For me, the inspiration was about opening all channels of creativity—not being bound, alone, to one crafted way of expression.” That statement alone makes me want to see Harold’s work.

Stilt Series VI, by Scott Mansfield, Conway School, Mount Vernon. This one might be a bit tricky to see. I haven’t seen it myself but I want to. I love book arts and this melds that theme with public art. The problem might be that it is in an interior space, so you might have to be bold enough to ask for permission to see it. But my guess is that it’s worth the effort.

Wenatchee River foot bridge. Photo credit: Gene Bisbee

Then trek to Wenatchee and take in the Apple Capital Recreational Loop Trail, which includes 60-plus pieces on the Wenatchee Riverfront Park, and a sculpture park along the Columbia River (particularly look for the big foot by Kevin Pettelle).

Non-Sign II, by Lead Pencil Studio, Blaine is one of the most clever works of art I’ve seen (and I’ve seen a lot of art). This piece says a lot about U.S. consumerism, about our messaging to the world and cross-border communication without saying anything at all. It’s so brilliant and simple.  

The city of Everett has a great public art program and just taking a stroll downtown you will encounter many interesting pieces. Check out Bear and Eagle Protecting the Last of the Native Salmon, by James Madison. Then of course you have to go to Narrative Coffee, just around the corner.

Guests from the Great River, by Tony A. (naschio) Johnson and Adam McIsaac, is at the Burke Museum in Seattle. Eleven bronze paddles represent the arrival of a Chinookan canoe carrying cultural heroes of that region and the knowledge they embody. I love how art can help us expand our worldview.

Eagle by Alexander Calder. Photo Credit: Public Domain

Eagle, Sculpture by Alexander Calder, SAM Sculpture Park, Seattle. No explanation needed—it’s Calder for goodness sake.

And finally, Herbert Bayer's Mill Creek Canyon Earthworks, in Kent. I love the idea of large earth-moving works that literally change the landscape. It helps a person see their environment in a whole new way.

And back to Tacoma. There is so much more great Art in Tacoma, I suggest you spend a day or two just to soak it in!

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