Bridges, buses, bikes, buildings, tents, towers, tractors, tombs, and so much more — if they exist in Seattle, Gabriel Campanario, the artist/author behind the award-winning Seattle Times “Seattle Sketcher” column and blog, has captured them to enlighten and amuse us. “Drawn to Seattle,” now on view at the Museum of History & Industry, features five years of his sketches and the insights they offer about life in Seattle. He’s an artist who considers himself to be a visual storyteller, revealing everything Seattle from the mundane to the marvelous. And what stories he tells!
Although Campanario is the only full-time sketcher at a major U.S. newspaper, there’s a long relationship between newspapers and urban sketchers. Before photography was invented, it was the sketch artists whose work illustrated news articles. The MOHAI exhibit provides some examples of these early sketches. It also exhibits an 1856 sketch of Seattle when it was a tiny settlement of 50 people, proving that sketching Seattle is as old as the city itself.
Museum Director Leonard Garfield is particularly delighted to exhibit this work in Seattle’s major history museum. He reminds us that Seattle is changing, changing rapidly, and that Campanario is capturing our uniqueness, the particular aspects that should be saved, the things that make us special even as we leap forward, ever evolving and growing. “Gabi is an urban historian … creating a diary of who we are now as he fashions his works of art,” Garfield says.
From White Center to Seattle Center and from Sammamish to Columbia City, the exhibit profiles Greater Seattle, its people and our times. There’s the house of the late Edith Macefield, the woman who refused to sell when developers were planning a large commercial development in Ballard just east of the bridge. No offer was great enough to persuade this determined lady to give up her home, so the architects designed the commercial building around it. There her house stands to remind us that we Seattleites will fight for what we hold dear.
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We’re a city of readers and have a wonderful library system to prove it, but how many of us know about the free-standing libraries, the quaint containers in neighborhoods throughout the city that hold books of all varieties there for the taking? You’ll see one depicted in this exhibit. And if Bruce Lee is one of your heroes, you’ll probably be interested in the sketch of his grave. Then, too, you’ll learn that the Troll is not the only attention-grabbing attribute under one of our many elevated roadways.
Some of the sketches are presented as quick pin-ups; others are carefully framed. Some are blown up many times their original size. Taken as a whole, they allow us to rediscover what we enjoy about our city and encounter what we never expected.
Nancy Worssam: email@example.com