Last year Seattle began celebrating Indigenous Peoples’ Day to celebrate the thriving cultures and values of Indigenous People’s in our region. In addition to celebrating this day, ARTS is highlighting three public artworks in our collection that honor our region’s rich culture and history. Seattle’s public art program expands the public experience with visual art and enables people in all societies to better understand their communities and individuals. Take a moment to enjoy and visit these artworks when you get a chance.
A Salish Welcome, Marvin Oliver
In Ballard, A Salish Welcome (2010) greets visitors at the gathering and viewing section of the Salmon Bay Natural Area. Completed in June 2010, artist Marvin Oliver constructed the 16-foot-tall-free-standing sculpture out of bronze, powder coated aluminum, powder coated steel, concrete and glass.
Highlighting SPU’s work to restore, protect and preserve Seattle’s heritage and vital salmon habitat, the cast bronze figure draped in a Salish ceremonial robe raises a four-foot diameter aluminum disk featuring two laser-cut, adult salmon circling four glass salmon eggs. The base of the sculpture is covered in steel plates with images of mature salmon facing upstream from Salmon Bay and salmon fry pointing towards Puget Sound.
“A Salish Welcome honors the local Salish people and celebrates the abundant and vital life on this ecological waterway,” says Oliver in his artist statement. “The monumental Salish figure in ceremonial robe greets us and reminds us to preserve, protect and promote this evolving, living landscape for new generations and man alike.”
The sculpture was funded by Seattle Public Utilities 1% for Art funds and Department of Neighborhoods Neighborhood Matching Funds.
Day/Night, Edgar Heap of Birds
Located next to the bust sculpture of Chief Seattle in Pioneer Square Day/Night is crafted out of porcelain enamel on two steel panels by artist Edgar Heap of Birds. Chief Seattle’s speech during treaty negotiations in 1854 is widely recognized as one of the greatest statements ever made regarding the relationship between people and the earth. Written in Lushootseed on the front and in English on the back, one panel reads: “Far away brothers and sisters, we still remember you” while the other one reads: “Chief Seattle, now the streets are our home.”
“With the sculpture Day/Night the theme of the porcelain panels seeks to proclaim that for many transient inter-tribal native people the streets of Seattle are home,” says Heap of Birds. “Secondly it is declared that although these tribal citizens have sought refuge in the urban centers which have sprung up on Indian Territory around them, the far away rural tribal communities from which they originate hold each and everyone’s memory in close and high regard.”
Originally commissioned as a temporary artwork by the Seattle Arts commission for “In Public, 1991”, Day/Night was on display for an extended amount of years before the commission obtained permission to keep it in Pioneer Square permanently. Day/Night was funded by private donors and the City of Seattle.
Hatchcovers, Nathan Jackson
Alaskan artist Nathan Jackson was commissioned in 1976 as a part of the hatchcovers project, where artist designed hatchcovers (manhole covers) to replace the aging hatchcovers downtown. Jackson’s design features a Tlingit whale relief which was originally carved in wood and later cast in iron.
Many Native American legends feature killer whales. In the Native American culture, killer whales symbolize power and strength. Many say that catching sight of one is a momentous omen. The Tlingit tribe among others believes that killer whales are special protectors of humankind.
There are 32 of these hatch covers scattered throughout Seattle. Jackson’s hatch covers were funded by Seattle City Light 1% for Art.