"Monarch Sculpture Park" Top 5 Page for this destination Olympia Off The Beaten Path Tip by glabah
Olympia Off The Beaten Path: 15 reviews and 56 photos
In 1991, artist Myrna Orsini went on a quest to visit every art museum in Europe. While she did not accomplish this specific goal, she did return home with an eccentric idea: why not build a place where artists can work, exhibit and live at the same time? While they might only stay a time, the facility could become a permanent home for some of their works.
This concept became reality in 1994 when artists from as far away as Lithuania and Ukraine participated in a joint artists gathering from seven other countries, but it would take until 1998 for the sculpture park to be open to the public.
It proved to be a considerable success, but also a lot of work. Contemplating retirement, and the loss of an early partner that helped her in the work, Orsini decided to close the park.
Thurston County, appreciating the contributions this park had made to the local arts community, decided this was not a good idea at all, and provided some assistance to operating the facility. For example, they now pay for part of the the liability insurance, the portable toilet near the road entrance, helped organize volunteer work parties to help maintain the place, and otherwise started doing what they could to help out. They helped organize the art auction and wine tasting fund raiser, and paid to put up signs from the freeway.
So, today you will find this sculpture garden is still open daily from dawn to dusk, filled with some 130 different works of outdoor art, and open to exploration from sunrise to sunset. Admission is by donation. An indoor exhibit space is also on the grounds, but open by appointment only June through October.
While some of the sculptures here have a permanent home at this sculpture garden, many of them are also for sale to that individual that provides a good and adequate home (as well as adequate payment). Therefore, some of the sculptures that you see in my photographs may not be at the park when you visit.
Many of the works of art are not that easy to find. Especially obscure are the various sculptures scattered through the forest on the north side of the property, some of which are quite obscure in the bushes and undergrowth (see photo 4 for an example). You have to look really carefully to find such pieces as the giant steel spider and the smaller pieces hidden behind trees. Also, the area around the artists work shop seems to be part of the private residence there, but much of the grounds there are also part of the sculpture garden.
A section of the park is dedicated to musical sculptures, on which visitors are invited to bang, hit, crash, rub, strum, or otherwise use to create musical (or not so musical) noise.
The park is primarily paid for by volunteer donations, despite the contributions from Thurston County. As you enter the park, there is a donations box, a box for maps of the park, a schedule of announcements, and other information. (See photo 2).
There are several picnic tables scattered through the garden (see photo 3), so this may be a good and eccentric place to have a lunch stop. They are somewhat limited in their quantity, however.
How to Get Here: Please note that for reasons known only to themselves, some of the signs directing people from Interstate 5 to the park have been stolen and/or otherwise gone msising.
The official address is 8431 Waldrick Road SE, Olympia Washington. However, the garden is actually closer to Tenino, though really only about 2 miles from the community of Rainier. From the north, take Interstate 5 exit 99, and 93rd Avenue SE to Old Highway 99 SE. Turn right onto the highway, and after approximately two miles turn left onto Waldrick Road SE. This location has a spectacular old-style home on the corner of the intersection that appears to be an old hotel from the days this road was an old wagon road. If you come to the very narrow, very low clearance underpass under the railroad line you have gone too far - or if you come to the turn-off for Wolf Haven you have gone too far.
From the north on Waldrick Road, the sculpture garden is first announced by a huge steel bicycle sculpture (see photo 5 for this tip) between Waldrick and the bike path at the intersection with Silver Creek Drive. Several more sculptures along the highway lead to a huge stylized bell sculpture (see photo 1) at the entrance to the sculpture garden. The bell looks somewhat Asian style but it is actually made from an old industrial tank. Between the bicycle and the bell, there are no driveways to the right, so as soon as you pass Silver Creek Drive you know that you are approaching the entrance.
Speaking of bicycle: The park is located right next to Chehalis - Western trail, so is easy to get to by bike or walking from areas closer to Olympia, so long as you don't mind a little time spent doing this. It is located at milepost 18.5 on the trail, as measured from the old railroad terminal on Puget Sound.
An alternate route from the south is take Interstate 5 exit 88 and highway 507 from the Centralia area. Continue through Tenino on highway 507. Go left onto Military Road/McIntosh Lake Road about 3 miles outside Tenino, then left onto Waldrick after crossing the river and the trail.
In Tenino, it is also possible to go north from 507 to Old Highway 99 SE. If you do this, then just after going by the turn off to Wolf Haven and under the very narrow, tight clearance underpass under the railroad line, turn right onto Waldrick about 1 mile north of the underpass. This also approaches the park from the north, and you will thus have adequate warning of the entrance to the park approaching due to the large bicycle sculpture.
Parking is somewhat limited here. The area on the right side of the driveway is gravel, and the only real parking for the sculpture garden.
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