It's worth a trip to Madison Park just to see "The Window Art Project," and the many people who visit for non-art purposes — to have lunch or stroll about — should be pleasantly surprised, which is exactly the point, writes reviewer Gayle Clemans.

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When I first heard about “The Window Art Project” — an art exhibition in Madison Park where 19 shops have given over retail space to works of art — I thought, “oooh … could be interesting, but could be really bad.”

Visions of local artists’ sculptures and paintings just plunked into store windows made me skeptical. Happily, the organizers, working under the name MadArt, have made smart decisions along the way, from selecting very talented, emerging artists to cleverly pairing them with local merchants. Most important, the artists have produced some eye-catching and attention-retaining site-specific installations.

The exhibition follows a route along the north side of Madison Avenue, from Ann Marie Lingerie, just west of Starbucks, to Spa del Lago. It’s worth a trip to Madison Park just to see the art, and the many people who visit for non-art purposes — to have lunch or stroll about — should be pleasantly surprised, which is exactly the point.

Alison Wyckoff Milliman — longtime supporter of the arts, Madison Park resident and the founder of MadArt — says, “It’s about bringing art to a new venue in a way that catches people off-guard and then they might have a conversation about it. We see a lot of art in prescribed places and that’s great and necessary, but the more we can change it up the healthier it is for the community and certainly for emerging artists.”

And therein lies another goal of the project: to support artists early in their careers. None of the artists is represented by a gallery (although they may be part of cooperative groups, like SOIL gallery). Milliman invited Bryan Ohno, freelance curator and former owner of the Bryan Ohno Gallery, to work with her in the selection process.

The artists received a stipend and really worked for it. They were required to visit merchants and put together proposals for site-specific installations, and they were challenged to create works that pushed their art in new directions — as if creating art in shop windows, rather than for a nice, neat, white wall, wasn’t difficult enough.

Artist Claude Andrew was assigned a tricky, narrow window in The Original Children’s Shop. You can look through the shop window into Andrew’s installation, another window that houses gauzy white leaves swirling about in a lovely, almost wistful, scene of perpetual autumn. One year out of school (Andrew enrolled in Cornish College of the Arts after leaving a career as a software developer), Andrew says this project has been “an opportunity to have challenges, to have high expectations, to have a public venue and to be able to do it outside of the normal gallery shows.

“I would love to sell work, don’t get me wrong, but it’s an opportunity to have my work seen and to learn from other people.”

Down the street at Madison Park Jewelers, artist Cristin Ford has installed a crystalline, three-dimensional piece titled “Plasti-

City.” Ford had been working primarily in two dimensions, exploring mapmaking and topography on paper, but for this project, she created a glittering, abstract, miniature city out of Plexiglass that pushes off its flat surface toward the street.

EXHIBIT PREVIEW

‘The Window Art Project’

Site-specific installations by variety of artists through Oct. 4, from 4000 E. Madison St. to 1929 43rd Ave E. in Madison Park, Seattle; (206-459-6857 or www.madartseattle.com).