The Fussy Eye: Gimme Shelter?

Though he helped save the Market and Pioneer Square, and his son may yet be our next mayor, I am not a fan of his namesake park, located at the foot of Virginia Street and deafened by the viaduct below. Sure, Victor Steinbrueck Park offers a great view of Elliott Bay and the Olympics, but it's not a place to linger—unless, like so many of its patrons, you're passed out drunk on the lawn or there to score drugs. Steinbrueck should be honored, but with something better and quieter when the viaduct goes down in 2016. (The plaza, established in 1970, was redesigned in '82 and posthumously named for Steinbrueck in '85.) Meanwhile, Clark Wiegman's new Tree of Life is also something that needs to be rethought in a post-viaduct future. The twin-stalked bronze piece is intended to inspire "community gathering, hope, and healing; to recognize that we are one people, homeless and housed together, and we can end homelessness." That's a big ask for any piece of art. The agenda here is overwhelming. Will the homeless and other poor, damaged souls who come to the park be transformed by Tree of Life? When I visited the sculpture, installed last October, only tourists were bothering to snap photos. The homeless have other priorities—namely food and shelter. And yet the project's $54,000 budget, funded by the Homeless Remembrance Project, wouldn't provide much of that for very long. Instead it's an exercise in awareness, with the names of those who've died on the streets commemorated by "fallen" metal leaves embedded in the pavement. Then go to a website, fallenleaves.org, to read their stories. Again, how many tourists or lunchtime park visitors will bother? Fewer, I suspect, than those who drop change in a panhandler's cup. 2001 Western Ave., seattle.gov/parks, homelessremembrance.org.

 
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