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Seattle's Cal Anderson Park Gets MadArt

Staff Reporter

A giant pencil has appeared in Seattle's Cal Anderson Park. The outdoor space has been transformed into an art studio for the next six weeks. Six Northwest artists are there creating sculptures as part of "MadArt in the Park." KUOW's Anna Bodi tells us more.


Artist Stephen Rock carried a giant wooden pencil into the park on Sunday. It's about five feet long and made out of solid wood. He's using an armful of these in his piece called "Brush Pile."

Rock: "A pile almost like pickup sticks that had been dropped down of brushes and pencils, and there's going to be one pen in there also."

MadArt incorporates a touch of whimsy. The exhibit promotes interaction with the art. Visitors are encouraged to watch artists create their work. That means they can touch it, walk through it and even sit on it.

A small boy has just walked up to the pencil. He wraps his arms around it and tries to move it.

Rock: "That kid's not going to be able to lift that!

Bodi: "What do you think the park setting allows that a gallery doesn't allow?"

Rock: "Maybe what we just witnessed: a little kid walking up and interacting with something and laughing and walking away. You know, it's just out of context. That in a gallery there's this quietness, there's a sterility that complements the statement work, or the thoughtful interaction with the patrons. Out here, you're in a park, you're having fun, you're walking by. It doesn't really matter if you notice the art, but there it is and you can enjoy it."

MadArt's first project was last year. The Window Art Project displayed 19 artists' work in storefront windows in Madison Park, but this is the first year MadArt is launching a large–scale exhibit in a public space.

Alison Milliman is founder of MadArt.

Milliman: "The whole idea is just to have fun. To show that the city supports their emerging artists and to give the emerging artists a bridge, a way to get their next works going and to get them to evolve to their next place. But it's really just intended to start a conversation. To give people an opportunity to see something and decide if they like it or not. Give the community a chance to look at more art and have conversations about it in ways that they might not otherwise have."

The artists were chosen from a pool of 250 candidates. Stephen Rock converted his brothers' Eastern Washington mill into a lathe to shape the heavy wooden pencils and brushes. The mill is usually only equipped to turn logs or cut timbers, but Rock says the scale of the project forces artists to use whatever tools they have access to, and part of the experience is about pushing artists to new limits.

Rock: "It keeps artists reaching for the potential that they can do larger projects and the exposure to different people. And working out in the parks pushes you into new forms, and new shapes and new approaches to what you're doing."

The "Art in the Making" portion of the project continues until August 11. The exhibit with the pieces finally finished, officially opens the next day.

For KUOW News, I'm Anna Bodi.

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