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the Methow Valley’s outdoor public art

appeared in Methow Valley News Summer Guide 2013


As if the splendor of the surrounding North Cascades were not enough to satisfy the senses, the Methow Valley is filled with wonderful pieces of public art, complementing the natural environment we so cherish and providing an opportunity for people to experience art in the course of  daily life.


The valley’s array of public art is also a testament to the creative vision of local artists and the value the community places on art in public spaces. If the great outdoors is so enticing that you simply can’t bear to set foot indoors, you can still enjoy much of the art the valley has to offer.


Travel down valley and as you enter Winthrop from the west, you’ll see the memorial to the Methow Valley Wildland Firefighters, which rests in the Mac Lloyd Park near the Winthrop Barn. Built by Barry Stromberger, the metal sculpture honors the 17 men and women who have lost their lives protecting the Methow Valley from wildfire since 1929. Wildland  firefighting is integral to the history and culture of the Methow Valley, and the statue stands as a tribute to all ground and aerial firefighters; past, present and future.

The Winthrop Town Trailhead doesn’t get a lot of action in the summer, but it is well worth a walk across the pedestrian bridge (arguably a piece of art itself) just to see the new mural.. Sponsored by the Methow Valley Nordic Club as part of its ongoing efforts to make trailheads more appealing, the mural “Winter in the Methow” was designed and painted by high school art students guided by artist Tori Karpenko through Methow Arts’ Artist-in-Residence program. The individual scenes were inspired by historic images from the Shafer Museum and contemporary pictures showing how people live, work, and play during winter in the Methow Valley.

The Western-style murals right in downtown Winthrop offer great photo opportunities (who doesn’t like a 12’ high painting of a horse and man sharing a bed?), but most of the public art pieces are located outside of town. Before leaving town, however, you should cruise past the Old Schoolhouse Brewery to check out the stained glass windows, created by artist and  former brewery co- owner Laura Ruud.

Across the street, a sweet sculpture sits on the steps of Little Star Montessori School: “Wait for Me,” carved by Bruce Morrison as a gift from John Hayes to his wife Rayma, the founder of the school.

Continue west on Highway 20, pausing at the Winthrop Post Office to  admire the glass tile mosaic, “Our Forests, Fire and Recovery,” which is another Methow Arts project involving students and local artists, in this case Laura Ruud and Kathleen Briley.


The next stop is Liberty Bell High School, which not only includes a magnificent entry sign and decorative bench created by Bruce Morrisonand Jim Neupert, but also the McCabe Memorial: a metal monument to beloved late art teacher, skier, and communitymember Sean McCabe. Placed at the center of the 5 kilometers of McCabe Trails surrounding the high school, the memorial art piece provides a dramatic setting for many a ski race and workout when juxtaposed with a backdrop of snow.


Across the parking lot at the main entrance to Methow Valley Elementary School you’ll find “Seasons of the Methow,” a large painted mural featuring work that students in grades 4-6 created with Deirdre Cassidy and Janet Essley. Nearby are pillars with clay fish, built with the help of artist Janie Lewis.

Although it’s a bit out of the way, a trip up to Chickadee Trailhead before you head to Twisp will not disappoint you, as you’ll get to examine Rich Beyers’ cast aluminum “The War of the Frogs and the Cranes.”

The Methow Salmon Recovery Foundation’s Twisp Ponds site just outside of town on Twisp River Road fairly blooms with public art; Dan Brown’s steel “Bringing Home the Salmon/Bacon” perches on a pole at the entrance to the site, Cordi Bradburn’s cast aluminum “Blue Heron and Smolt” wades near the bank, and Bruce Morrison’s carved wood “Beaver Totem” greets you as you walk around the bend. 

On your way back to Twisp, swing by the Twisp Grange to see what remains of “Methow  Totem,” with Raven the Trickster on top, a pioneer girl below, and a land turtle. The original totem included Sasquatch, Bear with Salmon, and Mother of the Methow, as well as a sea turtle, but all succumbed to rot. (Says woodcarver Bruce Morrison, “I’ve come to accept decay as part of the process.”) The pieces were carved by visiting artists under the direction of Morrison

A walk down Glover Street in Twisp will allow the visitor to see what are undeniably the most attractive recycling barrels in the world. Designed and fabricated by local artists, the six recycling barrels are both functional and fabulous, with styles ranging from glass tile mosaic to metal art.

Also on Glover Street in Twisp, visitors can view two glass tile mosaics: one at the Riverbank building called “Fish Grow on Trees” and the other, a second “Seasons of the Methow,” near the Twisp Town Hall. A third glass tile mosaic, “Potty Project,” graces the walls of the women’s bathroom in the Methow Valley Community Center, which is also home to “Children Taking Water to Herbs,”  a cast aluminum Rich Beyers piece in the park commons.

TwispWorks provides a feast for the eyes, with two Bernie Hosey spheres—“Round and Round” and “Entro”— metal orbs whose buoyant aesthetic belies their hefty weight. The spheres’ presence at TwispWorks is especially poignant, as Bernie’s untimely passing last summer cut short an artistic career that spanned the globe and resonated deeply with Methow Valley residents. 

In an area that so highly values its unique identity and sense of place, the public art of the Methow Valley sparks the imagination, encouraging people to experience and appreciate more profoundly their surrounding environment, and strengthening their connection to this special place.

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