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Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Art in the Park


This is the spot where they built the very first Seattle Art Museum. Just a few years before, it was a cemetery! But the citizens of Seattle decided that they'd rather have a park here, so they dutifully moved the bodies over a block and thus  "City Park" was created in the late 1800's. (You can read more about the migratory nature of Seattle's graveyards here.) 

The centerpiece of City Park was the Pavilion, featuring the Bandshell, no doubt the birthplace of the Seattle music scene. Other original park features, such as the castle-like Water Tower and the Reservoir are still around, but the Pavilion was torn down just a few decades later to make way for the Seattle Art Museum.

The Seattle Art Museum was founded by Dr. Richard Fuller and his mother heiress Margaret MacTavish Fuller. The Fullers moved to Seattle from New York in the 1920's. Related to both feminist pioneer author Margaret Fuller and genius futurist Buckminster Fuller, the Fullers loved to travel and collect artwork. 

Having amassed an impressive collection of Asian artwork, the Fullers decided to create a museum to house it. The city of Seattle agreed to let them build their museum in the park on the site of the Pavilion. By this time the park had been renamed "Volunteer Park", to honor the volunteers of the Spanish American War. 



Noted northwest architect Carl Gould was chosen to design the new museum. Taking  advantage of the very latest in building materials, Gould used terrazzo in the interior lobby floor and sleek aluminum trim and fixtures. It opened to the public in 1933. The centerpiece of the building, still sometimes referred to as the "Garden Court" originally housed tropical plants as well as statuary. The floor in this room is Cotswold Slate.

Dr. Richard Fuller was a geologist and loved all kinds of stonework including statues and ceramics. He acquired a series of sets of statues from the Spirit Path of a Chinese tomb and installed them along the lawn and walkways leading into the museum.






These statues are now protected indoors at the downtown Seattle Art Museum, but thanks to the Seattle Foundation, there are cement replicas of the camel statues which have given rides to many generations of Seattle children. 

This lovely Art Deco building was home to the Seattle Art Museum for almost 60 years.  
In 1991 a new, bigger building was built for the Museum in downtown Seattle. The building in the park was then rechristened as the Seattle Asian Art Museum. It continues to display the Fuller's original Asian art collection and well as new works by contemporary Asian artists.

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