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Where To Find The Best Public Art in Seattle

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Photo: Tom Wright

Talk about good timing. All around the Curbed network today, we're giving a shout out to public art in our cities and it just so happens to be the 40th anniversary of Seattle's 1-percent-for-art program, which provides money to artists to create installations and artwork all across the city. We could spend all week just listing the many works across Seattle, but here's a map of notable places and pieces to get you started.

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1. Olympic Sculpture Park

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2901 Western Ave
Seattle, WA 98121
(206) 654-3100
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An obvious but important starting point. Old stalwarts like the Eye Benches and The Eagle mixed with ever-changing installations, such as the delightfully-named half-house piece called "The Western Oracle: We Will Tear the Roof Off the Mother."

2. Volunteer Park (Black Sun)

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1400 E Prospect St
Seattle, WA 98112

In 1968, Isamu Noguchi envisioned creating a fluid and timeless work that would appear to move as the sun does. Located in the heart of Volunteer Park, Black Sun offers one of the most unique views of the Space Needle you'll find.

3. Myrtle Edwards Park (Adjacent, Against, Upon)

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3130 Alaskan Way W
Seattle, WA 98121
(206) 684-4075
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Often overshadowed by Olympic Sculpture Park, this shoreline spot was dedicated in 1964. Within, you'll find Michael Heizer's "Adjacent, Against, Upon," which continues to be an important work worthy of admiration.

4. The Wall of Death

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Burke-Gilman Trail
Seattle, WA

Installed in 1993, The Wall of Death doesn't have the best location in Seattle. In fact, it might have the worst. There was a lot of hand-wringing between the artists and the city which might have led to its location, where it watches U-District fill in around it.

5. Kerry Park (Changing Form)

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211 Highland Dr
Seattle, WA 98109

Up on high at Kerry Park, you'll find sweeping views of Seattle as well as the steel sculpture, Changing Form, created by Doris Chase. The artful design allows onlookers to take in the skyline in a completely unique way.

6. Seattle Center (DuPen Fountain)

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305 Harrison St
Seattle, WA 98109
(206) 684-7200
Visit Website

So many pieces of public art to choose from here. You could even make the argument the Space Needle is one. The Fountain of Creation a.k.a. DuPen Fountain is the real centerpiece of it all. Originally created for the 1962 World’s Fair, it's home to smaller installations and " acts as a celebration of humans, plants and animals on land, sea and in the air."

7. UW Campus (Stronghold)

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15th Avenue Northeast & Northeast Pacific Street, University of Washington
Seattle, WA 98105

Brian Tolle's installation looks like a regular-old tree stump from afar. But when you get closer, Stronghold echoes a time when the entire campus (and region) was driven by the timber industry. It's location near UW's tech building is no accident. Technology is our industry now.

8. Waterfront Park (Christopher Columbus)

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1301 Alaskan Way
Seattle, WA 98101
(206) 684-4075
Visit Website

constructed on the site of the former Schwabacher Wharf, Waterfront Park boasts a somewhat larger than life bronze abstract statue of Christopher Columbus. He gazes out at Elliott Bay, which is strange, since he never actually saw it in real life. Is that the bigger point?

9. Cal Anderson Park (Waterworks)

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1635 11th Ave.
Seattle, WA 98102

Inside Cal Anderson Park, you'll find Douglas Hollis’ Waterworks, an endlessly-streaming "river" that flows from a volcano (source) and settles in a calming pool (reflection).

10. Dancers' Series: Steps

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Broadway East & East Roy Street
Seattle, WA 98102

Look down while walking along Broadway in Capitol Hill. You'll likely to see eight sets of inlaid bronze shoeprints cast by Chuck Greening that comprise dances like the tango, waltz, lindy, foxtrot weave, rumba and mambo as well as two dances created by the artist entitled "busstop" and "obeebo."

11. Seattle Art Museum (Hammering Man)

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1300 1st Ave
Seattle, WA 98101
(206) 625-8900
Visit Website

Certainly we can't talk about public art and not talk about Hammering Man. Measuring 48 feet tall, he "hammers" silently and smoothly four times per minute from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. every day. He actually rests his arm every year on Labor Day.

12. Seattle Central Library (Braincast, Fountain of Wisdom)

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Meant to inspire contemplation upon the transmission of information, Tony Oursler's "Braincast" features a tableau of faces and individual features projected onto three-dimensional forms and semi-transparent Plexiglas. Outside you'll find George Tsutakawa's Fountain of Wisdom.

13. Waiting For The Interurban/Fremont Troll

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Fremont Avenue North & North 34th Street
Seattle, WA 98103

We'll lump Fremont's two most famous pieces of public art together here. You could say both are ongoing pieces of public art as they both seem to be wearing new or ever-changing clothing and/or drawings.

14. Counterbalance Park

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Queen Anne Ave. N & Roy St.
Seattle, WA 98109

You have to come here at night to really appreciate the last work by architect Robert Murase. The urban oasis lights up with a rainbow of colors that make everything ethereal for the groups that have gathered to sit and rest.

15. Safeco Plaza (Vertabrae)

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1001 4th Ave
Seattle, WA 98154

Take a stroll around Henry Moore's piece Vertabrae. What you see in one spot, you'll see something different in the next. And so on. Interestingly, all three forms are basically the same shape, just placed differently.

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1. Olympic Sculpture Park

2901 Western Ave, Seattle, WA 98121

An obvious but important starting point. Old stalwarts like the Eye Benches and The Eagle mixed with ever-changing installations, such as the delightfully-named half-house piece called "The Western Oracle: We Will Tear the Roof Off the Mother."

2901 Western Ave
Seattle, WA 98121

2. Volunteer Park (Black Sun)

1400 E Prospect St, Seattle, WA 98112

In 1968, Isamu Noguchi envisioned creating a fluid and timeless work that would appear to move as the sun does. Located in the heart of Volunteer Park, Black Sun offers one of the most unique views of the Space Needle you'll find.

1400 E Prospect St
Seattle, WA 98112

3. Myrtle Edwards Park (Adjacent, Against, Upon)

3130 Alaskan Way W, Seattle, WA 98121

Often overshadowed by Olympic Sculpture Park, this shoreline spot was dedicated in 1964. Within, you'll find Michael Heizer's "Adjacent, Against, Upon," which continues to be an important work worthy of admiration.

3130 Alaskan Way W
Seattle, WA 98121

4. The Wall of Death

Burke-Gilman Trail, Seattle, WA

Installed in 1993, The Wall of Death doesn't have the best location in Seattle. In fact, it might have the worst. There was a lot of hand-wringing between the artists and the city which might have led to its location, where it watches U-District fill in around it.

Burke-Gilman Trail
Seattle, WA

5. Kerry Park (Changing Form)

211 Highland Dr, Seattle, WA 98109

Up on high at Kerry Park, you'll find sweeping views of Seattle as well as the steel sculpture, Changing Form, created by Doris Chase. The artful design allows onlookers to take in the skyline in a completely unique way.

211 Highland Dr
Seattle, WA 98109

6. Seattle Center (DuPen Fountain)

305 Harrison St, Seattle, WA 98109

So many pieces of public art to choose from here. You could even make the argument the Space Needle is one. The Fountain of Creation a.k.a. DuPen Fountain is the real centerpiece of it all. Originally created for the 1962 World’s Fair, it's home to smaller installations and " acts as a celebration of humans, plants and animals on land, sea and in the air."

305 Harrison St
Seattle, WA 98109

7. UW Campus (Stronghold)

15th Avenue Northeast & Northeast Pacific Street, University of Washington, Seattle, WA 98105

Brian Tolle's installation looks like a regular-old tree stump from afar. But when you get closer, Stronghold echoes a time when the entire campus (and region) was driven by the timber industry. It's location near UW's tech building is no accident. Technology is our industry now.

15th Avenue Northeast & Northeast Pacific Street, University of Washington
Seattle, WA 98105

8. Waterfront Park (Christopher Columbus)

1301 Alaskan Way, Seattle, WA 98101

constructed on the site of the former Schwabacher Wharf, Waterfront Park boasts a somewhat larger than life bronze abstract statue of Christopher Columbus. He gazes out at Elliott Bay, which is strange, since he never actually saw it in real life. Is that the bigger point?

1301 Alaskan Way
Seattle, WA 98101

9. Cal Anderson Park (Waterworks)

1635 11th Ave., Seattle, WA 98102

Inside Cal Anderson Park, you'll find Douglas Hollis’ Waterworks, an endlessly-streaming "river" that flows from a volcano (source) and settles in a calming pool (reflection).

1635 11th Ave.
Seattle, WA 98102

10. Dancers' Series: Steps

Broadway East & East Roy Street, Seattle, WA 98102

Look down while walking along Broadway in Capitol Hill. You'll likely to see eight sets of inlaid bronze shoeprints cast by Chuck Greening that comprise dances like the tango, waltz, lindy, foxtrot weave, rumba and mambo as well as two dances created by the artist entitled "busstop" and "obeebo."

Broadway East & East Roy Street
Seattle, WA 98102

11. Seattle Art Museum (Hammering Man)

1300 1st Ave, Seattle, WA 98101

Certainly we can't talk about public art and not talk about Hammering Man. Measuring 48 feet tall, he "hammers" silently and smoothly four times per minute from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. every day. He actually rests his arm every year on Labor Day.

1300 1st Ave
Seattle, WA 98101

12. Seattle Central Library (Braincast, Fountain of Wisdom)

Seattle, WA 98122

Meant to inspire contemplation upon the transmission of information, Tony Oursler's "Braincast" features a tableau of faces and individual features projected onto three-dimensional forms and semi-transparent Plexiglas. Outside you'll find George Tsutakawa's Fountain of Wisdom.

13. Waiting For The Interurban/Fremont Troll

Fremont Avenue North & North 34th Street, Seattle, WA 98103

We'll lump Fremont's two most famous pieces of public art together here. You could say both are ongoing pieces of public art as they both seem to be wearing new or ever-changing clothing and/or drawings.

Fremont Avenue North & North 34th Street
Seattle, WA 98103

14. Counterbalance Park

Queen Anne Ave. N & Roy St., Seattle, WA 98109

You have to come here at night to really appreciate the last work by architect Robert Murase. The urban oasis lights up with a rainbow of colors that make everything ethereal for the groups that have gathered to sit and rest.

Queen Anne Ave. N & Roy St.
Seattle, WA 98109

15. Safeco Plaza (Vertabrae)

1001 4th Ave, Seattle, WA 98154

Take a stroll around Henry Moore's piece Vertabrae. What you see in one spot, you'll see something different in the next. And so on. Interestingly, all three forms are basically the same shape, just placed differently.

1001 4th Ave
Seattle, WA 98154