Dunn, Cornish and Cascadia: Arts and Visionaries in Seattle

Val Easton, who writes the column, Natural Gardener, in the ‘Seattle Times,’ noted recently that garden design has been called one of the slowest performing arts. It can take years before the vision of the garden is realized. It is also a process that can easily be sabotaged by impatience. (Aside from not being able to conceive the design, the less visionary among us don’t have the discipline not to overplant, or to leave empty spaces to provide visual relief.)

No one understood this concept of the long view better than Frederick Law Olmsted. He was the genius behind the grace of many American park systems, including Seattle’s. His heirs designed the Dunn Gardens with the same deference to the long term as did their famous father. This Arthur Dunn understood fully when he hired the Olmsted Brothers to develop his then ten-acre estate in 1915. In 2015 the Dunn Gardens celebrated 100 years of being. It is mind stopping to think that a garden vision articulated a century ago has realized this beautiful promise as it was designed to do.

About the time the Olmsted Brothers were planning the Dunn Gardens, along with the park system in Seattle, other expressions of art were being woven into the fabric of the city. A determined, accomplished pianist, Nellie Cornish, established the Cornish College of the Arts in 1914. Nellie was a stout lady with a vision to groom visual and performing artists that has also been realized over time. Through the work of its students, Cornish’s influence over its lifetime has been significant in many fields. Robert Joffrey, founder of the Joffrey Ballet was a pupil and is a case in point.

Assuredly, Seattle is blessed to have such visionaries articulate their passions within her boundaries. Their works have fed into the life and vibrancy of the city and helped those who experience the art find their better selves. Better yet, their influence also extends to breeding yet more appreciation of art. Recently, a new museum opened in Edmonds dedicated to showing the work of Pacific Northwest artists. It is called Cascadia Art Museum and is housed in a repurposed grocery store that is an art form in itself.

At present one of the exhibits is a collection of rare paintings, sculptures and photographs from Cornish’s early years. The Dunn Gardens is holding a fundraiser at Cascadia, April 1 called ‘A Spring Evening of Northwest Art.’  Your support of the event means you are helping keep the art of the Dunn Gardens alive, vibrant and accessible.  I’m sure Nellie Cornish as a visionary artist would heartily approve of Art Supporting Art. And it all happens in a very artistic place that makes, as all art does, a difference to how you feel.

 

                                                                                                             Everett G. DuPen, Dancers (left) Singers (right), ca. 1943.  Patinated plaster.  DuPen Family Collection.

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