An Unintimidating Introduction to Public Art Around Shoreline
Apr 12, 2019 11:26AM
● By Rachel Belfield
As a longtime Shoreline resident, I’m a bit embarrassed to admit that exploring and interacting with our city’s public art has always been intimidating. To tackle my own concerns and (likely) misunderstandings, I sat down for coffee with David Francis, the Public Art Coordinator for the City of Shoreline.
David’s a friendly, easygoing guy who was thrilled to hear that there’s interest and possible publicity for what he’s cultivating here around Shoreline. And I was relieved to hear that his vision is to create art that’s accessible for everyone to come up, learn, experience, and enjoy. While David personally loves quirky, avant garde, and niche works of art, he wants our public spaces to be enriched by what he helps bring to town and to open our eyes to the diversity of artistic expression and mediums.
I asked David a few questions to help families get acquainted with the art around us.
What public art do you recommend visiting first?
When I asked what piece of public art he’d recommend families first visit to get a sense for the public art we have here in Shoreline, David replied that he'd actually love for people to "window shop" and see a variety of art. He explained that if they pick just one, there’s a chance they may not like that particular sculpture or painting, but he wants them to love it from the get-go. There’s a map of public art that you can use to create your own self-guided tour or, if you’re like me, help you realize what you’re walking and driving past on a daily basis, without even realizing it.
After meeting with David and viewing the map of Shoreline public art, I realized that my children have climbed on the “Wood Wave” by artist Bruce Johnson at Kruckeberg Botanic Garden, waved “good morning” each day to the cast bronze “Ponies” of unknown origin at Ronald Bog Park on 175th, and marveled at the gorgeous lighting cast on the “Interurban Trail Bridges” as we’ve crossed Aurora at 155th. I’m going to make a point to stop and read the plaques when we have time, or come back home and read with them the descriptions of artwork they’ve observed when we get back home.
What public art is on display at City Hall?
David explains that Shoreline City Hall is actually envisioned as a civic center, to be welcoming to the public rather than an office simply for filing permit applications. All floors have art installed, featuring 20-30 different artists of wide-ranging backgrounds and a variety of media, including painting, video, and sculpture. It's open for residents to visit any time during regular business hours, which are Monday-Friday, 8:00 am - 5:00 pm.
Right now, however, there's an exhibit David highly recommends families experience before it comes down on April 26. Many of us have heard about the naming of the Edwin Pratt Early Learning Center, championed by the inspiring Sarah Haycox of Shoreline, who came across a memorial to the slain civil rights pioneer at Shoreline Center’s soccer fields. Far fewer of us (myself included) have likely visited the third floor of Shoreline City Hall to experience the exhibit “Living the Dream, Dreaming the Life.” Now’s the time to visit city hall and see learn more about this local leader, who’s just now getting the posthumous recognition he deserved.
I’ll take my children to the Edwin Pratt exhibit soon and write up how it goes! Can I really just waltz into city hall (with kids in tow, no less?) and wander around to look at the art? Will I be stopped and asked why I’m there, or given the side-eye? I’ll take my youngsters and report back.
How can we best introduce young children to art in our community?
When asked what pointers David has for introducing children to art, he eagerly offers that instead of explaining to kids what they see, we should ask them ‘what do you see?’ This opens the door to a conversation that includes them in the learning and creativity, rather than talking at them and turning it into a lesson. Really listen to what they say and ask follow-up questions to draw out their ideas.
In coming weeks, this admitted meditation cynic will explore the Hamlin Park meditation circuit and share what I found, and I’ll reconnect with David to preview the NW Watercolor Society exhibit, which will feature world-class works from Greece, Malaysia, Singapore, and across the United States.