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  • Marie McKinsey

West Seattle's "Walking on Logs" Sculptures

Updated: Nov 19, 2022

Walking on Logs sculptures by Philip Levine West Seattle - 1996
"Walking On Logs" Sculptures Photo: Delridge Neighborhoods Development Association

Remember these kids? When the West Seattle Bridge was open, we passed them every time we drove into the neighborhood. Sometimes they were dressed up. Sometimes they were lost in the weeds. And in 2014, one of them was kidnapped!

In the early 1990s, when I was taking landscape design classes at South Seattle College, students were told about this project. We were offered the opportunity to do a landscape plan for the area around the sculptures. It sounded like fun, so I volunteered, along with two other students: Susan Rafanelli, and John Vraspir.

People posing on the slope to show where Walking on Logs sculptures would  be sited
From left, Earl Cruzen, Philip Levine, Susan Rafanelli and John Vraspir.

But before we could do a planting plan, we had to see where the sculptures would be installed. We met Philip Levine, the "Walking on Logs"sculptor, and Earl Cruzen, known as the father of the Murals of West Seattle, at the site.

Philip explained his vision for the project. Then he had people move around on the slope, as if they were each one of the sculptures, and take positions that might work for the final installation. I took photos, like the one you see above, while he choreographed, until he was satisfied with the layout.

The sculptures were installed in 1996. After much negotiation with homeowners above the site, who were concerned that we would plant things that would block their views, our landscape design was implemented, as well.

Philip Levine's work can be found throughout the region, with over 30 installations in Western Washington alone. He received the prestigious Washington State Governor's Arts and Heritage Award in 1997, which put him in league with two other great local artists, Jacob Lawrence and George Tsutakawa. He died in 2021, at the age of 90.

In 2014, local writer Clay Eals interviewed him about the "Walking on Logs" project. Philip talks about his inspiration for the sculptures, how he liked working with the community, and why he thought "dressing up" his sculptures was an act of vandalism. (Yes, really!) It's an interview worth watching.

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