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Artists at Play Opening May 22

Please join us for the Grand Opening of Artists at Play (AAP), a new imaginative, artist-created playground in Next 50 Plaza at Seattle Center. The festivities start at 12 noon, this Friday, May 22. A a live performance by young people and a brief ceremony with City officials and the project donor coincide with the first day of Northwest Folklife Festival.

Northwest Tap Connection, Simba Youth Marimba Ensemble, drummer Steve Roy and spoken word artist Adillia Scott will showcase the ingenious sound elements of the play area. Seattle Mayor Ed Murray, Seattle City Councilmembers Jean Godden and Sally Bagshaw, Seattle Center Director Robert Nellams and Korynne Wright will officiate; and over 250 Seattle children will break through the opening ribbon to be the first to officially play in the delightful new space.

Artists at Play combines innovative play equipment like a 35-foot high KOMPAN Climbing Tower, accessible swings and a person-powered carousel with inventive, child-inspired musical instruments, listening stations, rebuses and “story lines” to create an open, inviting and immersive play experience for children of all ages.

Realized through a public-private partnership and designed by the team of Trimpin and Judith Caldwell, Site Workshop and Highwire, Artists at Play is built around the idea that play can encompass sound and motion. The playful, interactive sculptures designed by Trimpin, a MacArthur Genius Award recipient, bring a kinetic and musical presence to the playground. Numerous bronze inlays created by Caldwell, a Pacific Northwest artist and Seattle native, interact with the sculptures, adding whimsical and functional elements to the pieces.

Both artists engaged local kids in the development of their designs and interpreted their ideas and stories into the artworks. Landscape architecture firm Site Workshop, which has broad experience in creating imaginative parks and play areas, blended the artworks into a comprehensive whole, while Highwire supplied the new play equipment.

“We are thrilled with the result of this creative and resourceful collaboration. Artists at Play is an exciting gift to our community and an important contribution to the Seattle Center Century 21 Master Plan, which calls for enlivening this part of the grounds with child-focused activities,” said Seattle Center Director Robert Nellams.

Seattle Center took advantage of the playground construction to upgrade Next 50 Plaza with new landscaping, patios and terracing. A large saddle span tent erected in the Plaza for the busy summer season provides shade for viewing and picnicking. Signage on the site will share the story of the playground with visitors and provide information and instruction on interacting with the play elements.

Art Elements – descriptions and instructions

Bronze Rebus Riddle:  walk the Labyrinth, an ancient spiritual tradition, and you may find the answers to life’s questions – or solve a riddle posed in the rebus, made of words and images, embedded at the Labyrinth’s center.

Letter Tree:  the seven letters, each connected to a cast bronze crank wheel, correspond to musical notes (A, B, C, D, E, F, and G). With each turn of a wheel, you’ll activate a striking mallet that will make the note of the letter sound.

Listening Stations:  place your feet on the bronze footprints and your head between the giant earphones and listen. What do you hear, the sound of the Rain Stick or someone talking to you? Maybe they’re speaking from another Listening Station way far away.

Pebble Play:  it’s easy to play this bronze “instrument.” Just scoop some pebbles into the top of the metallic stump sculptures and listen to the sounds they make against the bronze disks. What kinds of musical tones do you hear?

Rain Stick:  look up the tall column and you’ll find a long tube called a Rain Stick. Turn its crank and the tube will tilt back and forth and the slug-like creature, fabricated by artist Kim David Hall, will move in tow. Then listen, is that the sound of ocean waves striking the shore?

Sound Fence:  tap the billiard balls found in the front of the Sound Fence, or simply strike the outer surface of the tall chime tubes, arranged in an S-curve pattern, and your sounds will resonate in various pitches, marked in the pavement by 18 unique bronze castings.

Sound Swings:  swing on the sculpture (you’ll even find one ADA-accessible seat) and you’ll create energy that sends vibrations to the kinetic artworks mounted on the upper structure. Your movement will cause them to sway and make sounds.

Bronze Poems:  poems set in bronze castings on top of two concrete seat walls speak of sounds in the animal kingdom. In rhyming verse, they explore the form and function of the herring’s unusual resonance and the anatomical headgear of the dinosaur Parasaurolophus.

Story Lines:  the playground is framed by oscillations of wave energy flowing through the site, defining pathways and play areas. Each wavy Story Line is embedded with text and bronze images that carry a unique story of sound, motion and adventure, as imagined by children.