by Susan Fried
The unfinished Great Hall of the central Midtown Square apartment complex was packed with local artists and art supporters on Saturday, February 26 for the official unveiling of a 6-foot-tall bronze sculpture by the famed sculptor and Seattle painter, Dr. James W. Washington Jr., created by Barry Johnson.
Washington was a member of the Northwest School, a style originating in Seattle and inspired by the natural setting of the Pacific Northwest. Living and working in Seattle from 1944 until his death in 2000, Washington was prolific – his works can be seen around the city and in several art museums. His sculpture “The Oracle of Truth” is installed at Mount Zion Baptist Church, and he created the obelisk at Meany Middle School. He and his wife, Janie, made their home on 26th Avenue in the Central District, where he also kept his studio. Other artists associated with the Northwest School include Mark Tobey, Morris Graves and Doris Totten Chase.
Barry Johnson is a self-taught artist working in a variety of mediums including painting, film, mixed media and sculpture. He has created several murals in downtown Seattle and Bellevue, contributed to the Black Lives Matter mural on Pike Street, and has shown his work in solo and group exhibitions.
Prior to the unveiling, a ceremony was held with a proclamation from Mayor Bruce Harrell declaring February 26, 2022, Dr. James W. Washington Day. There was also a community call for celebration in a variety of languages, a reading of “Poem of Stone and Bone” by writer and visual artist Carletta Carrington Wilson, and recognition of all the artists who contributed to the art that adorns the exterior of the Midtown Square building.
After the ceremony, people ventured out into the pouring rain for the unveiling of the statue. Johnson, Harrell and board members of the Dr. James & Janie Washington Cultural Center organized a ribbon cutting and the removal of the sheet that covered the statue.
The statue stands across from Washington’s “Fountain of Triumph,” a piece that was installed at the corner of 23rd and Union in 1994. It was renovated by the Pratt Fine Arts Center and moved to its new location off 24th and Union at the end of last year.
Fried Susan is a 40-year veteran photographer. Her early career included weddings, portraits and commercial work – moreover, she‘I’ve been the Seattle photographer for The Skanner News for 25 years. His images appeared at the University of Washington‘s The Daily, The Seattle Globalist, Crosscut and many more. She was a emerald contributor since 2015. Follow her on Instagram @fried.susan.
📸 Featured image: The neon entrance sign to Midtown Square glows behind the sculpture of Dr. James W. Washington Jr. (Photo: Susan Fried)
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