John Grade

From the moment you set foot in Seattle, you can feel it: art is everywhere.

The thriving arts scene is a priority in this city—in fact, Seattle has been recognized for having more arts-related businesses and organizations per capita than any other metropolitan area in the U.S., according to Americans for the Arts. Sculptor John Grade is one of the contributors to this creative city. Read on for a look at the city through his artistic lens.

Q&A with John Grade

What neighborhood do you live in?

I live between Seward Park and Kubota Garden in South Seattle – both great places to visit. Kubota Japanese Garden because there are rarely many people there and the variety and arrangement of the plants is beautiful – Seward Park because you can wander through old-growth forest and experience what early Seattle once looked like before it was inhabited.

Your work is often made with a specific location in mind — How has Seattle been an influence in this regard?

Seattle is where I made my first large-scale permanent public artwork – at the Museum of History and Industry in South Lake Union. The sculpture is titled Wawona, named after the historic wooden schooner that my team and I salvaged to create the piece. I wanted viewers entering inside the sculpture to experience a world that combined the interior of a ship as well as the interior of an old growth tree. By cutting open the floor and ceiling of the building and extending the sculpture to the water below and the sky above, I wanted people to imagine what the natural environment looked and felt like before Seattle was founded.

Ed note: since this interview was done, both Seattle Art Museum and the SEA Airport have added large scale works by John to their public spaces.

What do you enjoy when you’re not making art?

I like walking along the high bluffs at Discovery Park or wandering through the stacks of the downtown (Rem Koolhaas designed) Seattle Central Library or poking through strange atlases at Metsker Maps in the Pike Place Market.

Where do you like to take visitors?

I like taking people to Macrina Bakery nearby or waking down to Pioneer Square for a great classic Italian sandwich at Salumi. World Pizza in the International District makes great veggie pizza, and many storefronts in that area have rotating art exhibits that are good to check out (and the area is full of artists working away in their studios).

What do you think makes Seattle unique?

How would you show that to a visitor?

Foremost, our access to forest, parks, the sound, lakes and rivers makes this city great. It is really easy to rent a sailboat, canoe or kayak or hop onto a ferry. After paddling around one of our waterways, head over to Pottery Northwest in lower Queen Anne, take a two hour class throwing clay on a wheel and jump directly into making some art.



Interview by Jess Van Nostrand, 2012.

Photo taken at the Museum of History and Industry.



John Grade’s “Middle Fork” sculpture comes home to the Seattle Art Museum.



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