by Susan Fried
The large, unfinished room in the Central District apartment complex Midtown Square was filled with local artists and art supporters on Saturday, Feb. 26, for the official unveiling of a 6-foot-tall bronze sculpture of renowned Seattle sculptor and painter Dr. James W. Washington Jr., created by Barry Johnson.
Washington was a member of the Northwest School, a style that originated in Seattle and drew inspiration from 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 who works in a variety of mediums, including painting, film, mixed media, and sculpture. He created several murals in Downtown Seattle and Bellevue, contributed to the Black Lives Matter mural on Pike Street, and has shown his work in both individual and group shows.
Before the unveiling, a ceremony was held featuring a proclamation by Mayor Bruce Harrell declaring Feb. 26, 2022, Dr. James W. Washington Day. There was also a community call to celebration in a variety of languages, a reading from “Poem of Stone and Bone” by writer and visual artist Carletta Carrington Wilson, and a recognition of all the artists who contributed to the art that adorns the outside of the Midtown Square building.
Following the ceremony, people ventured out in the pouring rain for the revealing of the statue. Johnson, Harrell, and members of the board of directors for the Dr. James & Janie Washington Cultural Center held a ribbon cutting and removal of the drape 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 refurbished by Pratt Fine Arts Center and relocated to its new location off 24th and Union late last year.
Susan Fried is a 40-year veteran photographer. Her early career included weddings, portraits, and commercial work — plus, she’s been The Skanner News’ Seattle photographer for 25 years. Her images have appeared in the University of Washington’s The Daily, The Seattle Globalist, Crosscut, and many more. She’s been an Emerald contributor since 2015. Follow her on Instagram @fried.susan.
📸 Featured Image: The neon Midtown Square entrance sign gleams from behind the sculpture of Dr. James W. Washington Jr. (Photo: Susan Fried)
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