Earthworks Park: Americans for the Arts Tour will give insight into a living work of art

The park is art. When Herbert Bayer, an Austrian painter, graphic artist and architect, designed the dam and landscape of the Mill Creek Earthworks Park for the city of Kent 27 years ago, he had one primary goal.

Cheryl dos Remédios with the City of Kent points out key features of the earthen structures Thursday at Earthworks Park. She'll help lead tours of the park

Cheryl dos Remédios with the City of Kent points out key features of the earthen structures Thursday at Earthworks Park. She'll help lead tours of the park

The park is art.

When Herbert Bayer, an Austrian painter, graphic artist and architect, designed the dam and landscape of the Mill Creek Earthworks Park for the city of Kent 27 years ago, he had one primary goal.

“He looked at art as part of everyday life,” said Cheryl dos Remédios, city visual arts coordinator of the cultural programs division of the parks department, taking a stroll Thursday at the park. “He integrated art into everyday life. He created places for people.”

Now internationally recognized as a masterpiece of modernist art, Kent’s Earthworks Park functions as a stormwater-detention dam, as well as a public space. The park is at 742 E. Titus St., on the eastern edge of downtown.

Bayer, considered a master of the Bauhaus art movement (a German art style combining the crafts and fine arts) had the landscape sculpted to handle flooding and erosion and to detain stormwater. He designed a series of sculpted spaces for the park to mix in circles, lines and berms, giving the park an undulating, yet naturally choreographed look.

Residents can learn more about the late Bayer, who died in 1985 at the age of 85, and the story behind the park with a free, guided tour starting at about 10:30 a.m. Friday. Tours, sponsored by the Kent Arts Commission, start at a tent near the parking lot.

Experts from the Americans for the Arts, a national nonprofit group, will lead the tours.

The tour leaders include Sam Bower, founder of greenmuseum.org.; Tim Baird, associate professor of landscape architecture at Penn State University; Gwen Chanzit, curator of modern and contemporary art and the Herbert Bayer collection at the Denver Art Museum; Brice Maryman, a Seattle landscape architect and author of the Earthworks landmark nomination; and dos Remédios, who has overseen several Earthworks projects.

The tours are part of a larger Americans for the Arts national convention to take place Thursday through Saturday in Seattle. Nearly 50 people from the convention plan to attend the park event Friday.

“But we also want the local community to participate,” dos Remédios said. “There will not be formal speakers. It is going to be much more active.”

Other festivities include a contemporary dance performance and an environmental art installation.

Starting at about 11:45 a.m., contemporary dancers will dance through the park to a 25-minute performance choreographed by Alex Martin of Seattle called, “The Daylight.” Martin choreographed a similar piece for the 25th anniversary of the park in 2007.

The crowd will move through the park along with the dance group.

“Having a dance piece bring people through the park is a way to experience the park differently as areas are highlighted by the dancers,” dos Remédios said.

Contemporary dancers also will perform earlier in the day at the park’s amphitheater.

Artist Kristin Tollefson plans to install a temporary environmental art piece made out of blackberry cane along the park’s pathway near Mill Creek.

The King County Landmark Commission designated the 2 1/2-acre earthworks portion of the 107-acre park as a historic landmark in 2008. The landmarks commission found the property to be of exceptional significance because of the natural artwork and waived its criteria that a landmark must be at least 40 years old. Earthworks Park was constructed in 1982.

“I don’t think a lot of people are aware that the full 2 1/2 acres of earthworks is a sculpture,” dos Remédios said. “The key to public art is to make it a public place. This is land art or earth art and a place people want to come.”

For more information, go to www.ci.kent.wa.us/arts.

If you go

What: Mill Creek Earthworks Park tour

When: 10:30 a.m. Friday

Where: Earthworks Park, 742 E. Titus St.

Cost: Free

(Parking is available at the Kent Senior Activity Center)


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