The Fussy Eye: Scattered Petals

Missing mall art.

Many complained in June when Bank of America removed the giant Sam Francis painting from the old SeaFirst tower on Fourth Avenue. By contrast, who notices—or appreciates—the art that's added to or removed from a shopping mall? And how many art snobs venture up to Northgate? But the mall's developers commissioned a three-piece fountain by Seattle sculptor George Tsutakawa (1910–1997) in the early '60s. At the north entrance, it once stood near the iconic, tribal-canoe-shaped Northgate sign and a 1952 totem pole (not carved by an Indian, btw, but Bellevue artist Dudley C. Carter). Northgate has been remodeled and expanded several times; the north entrance now has an upswept, tiki-style roof—yet another gesture toward fleeting tradition. All that remains, hidden in some shrubbery, is the concrete base of the totem pole, which came down three years ago. (Restored, it can now be found at the Suquamish Clearwater Casino Resort, just north of Bainbridge Island.) Tsutakawa's triad—similar to his solitary Fountain of Wisdom at the downtown library—is a superior work, but it was yanked in 1975 and put in storage. Do you remember the fountain, or its disappearance? Neither did I, until finding Tsutakawa's small 1962 sketch for the "floral fountain" at Bellevue Arts Museum's ongoing "Art of Discovery" show; then my childhood memory clicked. The fountain emerged from storage in the mid-'90s as a gift to Northwest Hospital, a few blocks west of the mall. (Ironically, again seeking to refresh its image, Northgate's owners have since added an outdoor courtyard with a desultory pond and rockery.) Over at the hospital, water gurgles and pours from the upturned petals and pods of Tsutakawa's fountain, surrounded by chairs, greenery, and memorial stones for patients. Located on the west side of the grounds, it's a peaceful site, but also surrounded by parked cars—just as it originally was at Northgate. 

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