Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Artist at Washington Foundation Creates a Spectacle

During a June 2010 residency at The James and Janie Washington Foundation, artist Garric Simonsen created a project called The Spectacle. The project was inspired by a parade where he saw vendors roaming the crowd with carts selling inflatable novelty toys and balloons. What attracted him to these mobile stores was the effort each vendor put into the presentation of their products. What also interested Simonsen were some unique connections these vendors shared with the business of being a self-promoted artist.

Artists put themselves into the public eye displaying things, trying to be noticed for their ability to produce unique items. Most commonly their art is engaged commercially and in some cases mass-produced to appease high demands from collectors. This project critiques the idea that art is a commodity. It also symbolizes the artist’s ability to withstand public scrutiny, standing as a metaphor that interprets what it’s like to be viewed as a spectacle.

The connections between an artist’s self-promotion and a parade vendor inspired Simonsen. During his one-month residency at the James and Janie Washington Foundation, he created one of these carts and stocked it with his own selection of inflatable novelties. The process began with finding an abandoned shopping cart and getting it back to the studio for modifications. He ordered his products from an online retailer and began outfitting the cart with oversized sunglasses, glow-sticks, balloons shaped like frosty beer mugs, giant crayons, little guitars and even a huge inflatable hammer called the “Big Bopper.” This Saturday, he will set out on a three-mile pilgrimage to the art district in Seattle’s Pioneer Square. Everything on the cart will be given away for free.

The walk will start around 10:00am Saturday, June 19th from The James and Janie Washington Foundation (1816 26th Ave.) and continue down Capitol Hill jetting back and forth between Pike and Pine Street eventually landing in Westlake Park around 12:30pm. From Westlake Park the cart will make its way through downtown, landing in Occidental Park in Pioneer Square between 3:30pm-4:30pm. Finally the artist will head up Jackson through the International District and turn north on 23rd , through the Central District.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Fountain of Triumph

As a student of the UW Museum Studies Certificate Program I’ve been volunteering at the James and Janie Washington Foundation for about 2 months. With my program now over, I can’t help but think how lucky I am to have found a practicum at a museum that keeps me constantly inspired by its mission, and excited to keep coming back. As a new student in the museum field, it is endlessly encouraging to be surrounded by motivated artists, to be a small part of Mr. Washington’s beautiful legacy, and to be around Tim Detweiler, executive director, for his constant enthusiasm about his museum and his great stories.

Sitting in the living room of the house, one photograph in particular has been grabbing my attention for the past two weeks. It’s a simple picture of Mr. Washington sitting in front of one of his sculptural fountains located in the Central District neighborhood as traffic and life pass by around him. However simple, the photo strikes me every time I enter the house. I think the photo, as well as Mr. Washington’s expression, says so much about who he was and what his foundation continuously strives to accomplish. The sculpture is on the corner of Union and 23rd, and was originally made as a meeting place for the community. He sits happily in front of the sculpture with a sweet, and unassuming demeanor.

The community is working to restore the sculpture and to restore the original idea of unity in an ever-changing neighborhood. The beauty and message of struggle and determination that the sculpture still brings to the neighborhood, long after his death, is moving. With the youth programs, exhibit tours, and artist in residency programs, the museum keeps Mr. Washington’s message alive and well and I’ve been honored to be part of it.