With the recently completed renovations at Christie Park, one of the U-District’s small outdoor oases has received a facelift in the hopes of creating a more functional space for building community.
Christie Park, located on the corner of Northeast 43rd Street and 9th Avenue Northeast, has recently reopened following a two-year renovation project undertaken by Seattle Parks and Recreation. The renovations feature, according to the Seattle Parks website, an expansion to the park, open lawns, picnic tables, exercise equipment, and an art installation titled "Explorer Voyage" created by Paul Sorey and donated by the Friends of Christie Park (formed by the Taiwanese American community in Greater Seattle).
“Explorer Voyage” features three stainless steel Taiwanese tatara boats that also serve as benches, surrounded by waves and the word “explore” written in several languages. The installation is both functional and symbolic, meant to represent themes of exploration and community in the U-District and beyond.
The Taiwanese tatara boats partly honor Seattle’s relationship with its sister city Kaohsiung, Taiwan, one of 20 cities participating in the Seattle Sister City Program.
“The goal is to establish an understanding of cultural exchange and a friendship between the two cities,” the president of the Seattle Kaohsiung Sister City Association, Shiao-Yen Wu, said. According to Wu, the sister city program also promotes building friendships and community through events like cooking classes, dragon boat racing competitions, and diplomatic visits.
The “Explorer Voyage” art installation draws inspiration from the park’s namesake and its location in the U-District.
“The explorer idea also envelops James Christie, the park’s namesake,” Christie Park addition project manager Katie Bang said. “He was sort of somebody who was an explorer, and an advocate for the Native community that was here.”
Bang added that inspiration was also drawn from the UW’s history of rowing and the park’s location within a community primarily occupied by college students.
“The community around [the park] is very much in an explorative mode in their lives, trying to figure out who they are and where they want to go,” Bang said.
Other park renovations were heavily influenced by input from the surrounding community, primarily collected through three public meetings held throughout the design process, which began in 2018. The community cited adequate lighting, seating, open spaces, and art as some of the key improvements they envisioned for the park.
UW student and U-District resident Luke Samuels agrees with the community’s preferences for park amenities, particularly the importance of public art.
“Art, I think, is super important to have in parks and super important to have in the community,” Samuels said. “It really helps give life to a community.”
The park’s renovations are currently complete, aside from adding lights within the boats of the “Explorer Village” installation, which would illuminate the art from the inside and serve as an additional light source for the park at night, according to Bang.
“We really are excited to open a park during a pandemic, and we are really looking for these bright spots in our community,” Bang said. “We encourage, obviously not large groups, but folks to come and enjoy the park.”
Reach contributing writer Taylor Zachary at firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @trzzachary
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