PHOTO ESSAY: Sculpture by Seattle artist Dr. James W. Washington Jr. unveiled

by Susan Fried

The unfinished Great Hall of the central Midtown Square apartment complex was packed with local artists and art supporters on Saturday, February 26 for the official unveiling of a 6-foot-tall bronze sculpture by the famed sculptor and Seattle painter, Dr. James W. Washington Jr., created by Barry Johnson.

Washington was a member of the Northwest School, a style originating in Seattle and inspired by 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 has created several murals in downtown Seattle and Bellevue, contributed to the Black Lives Matter mural on Pike Street, and has shown his work in solo and group exhibitions.

Prior to the unveiling, a ceremony was held with a proclamation from Mayor Bruce Harrell declaring February 26, 2022, Dr. James W. Washington Day. There was also a community call for celebration in a variety of languages, a reading of “Poem of Stone and Bone” by writer and visual artist Carletta Carrington Wilson, and recognition of all the artists who contributed to the art that adorns the exterior of the Midtown Square building.

After the ceremony, people ventured out into the pouring rain for the unveiling of the statue. Johnson, Harrell and board members of the Dr. James & Janie Washington Cultural Center organized a ribbon cutting and the removal of the sheet 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 renovated by the Pratt Fine Arts Center and moved to its new location off 24th and Union at the end of last year.

Midtown Square, an apartment complex and community center in the Central District, features vibrant artwork, like this colorful mural by Perri Rhoden. (Photo: Susan Fried)
Takiyah Ward standing in front of a window and wall backdrop
Takiyah Ward’s “Central District” mural can be seen through the window during the celebration ahead of the unveiling of a statue of legendary Seattle artist and sculptor Dr. James W. Washington Jr. in Midtown Square. (Photo: Susan Fried)
Carletta Carrington Wilson reading a poem into a microphone
Visual and literary artist Carletta Carrington Wilson reads an excerpt from her original piece ‘Poem of Bone and Stone’ during the unveiling ceremony. (Photo: Susan Fried)
Sculpture of the Fountain of Triumph presented in its original location and in its new location
Dr. James W. Washington’s original sculpture “Fountain of Triumph” originally stood at the corner of 23rd & Union from 1994. It was moved due to Midtown Square construction, remodeled and moved to the corner of 24th and Union. (Photo: Susan Fried)
Takiyah Ward stands before her "central district" wall
Artist Takiyah Ward stands in front of his mural on a rainy Seattle night. Takiyah Ward’s “Central District” is a 120-foot mural showing the past, present and future of Seattle’s historic CD District. (Photo: Susan Fried)
Vivian Phillips and Barry Johnson smiling and standing near the sculpture
Vivian Phillips and artist Barry Johnson smile after the unveiling of Johnson’s sculpture of Dr. James W. Washington Jr. at Midtown Center. (Photo: Susan Fried)
Renovated "Fountain of Triumph" sculpture
The newly renovated “Fountain of Triumph” sculpture by Dr. James W. Washington Jr. is located across from the award-winning Communion restaurant. (Photo: Susan Fried)
Bruce Harrell and Laverne Hall behind a lectern at the unveiling
Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell and Dr. Laverne Hall, Chairman of the Board of the Dr. James & Janie Washington Cultural Center, say a few words about Washington’s cultural and artistic contributions to CD before stepping out to unveil the new statue of Dr. James W. Washington Jr. in Midtown Square. (Photo: Susan Fried)
Murals by Myron Curry on side of Midtown Square building
Art by Myron Curry (top left) decorates the 23rd Street side of the Midtown Square building. (Photo: Susan Fried)
Artist Barry Johnson standing next to his sculpture and looking at the camera
Artist Barry Johnson stands by his sculpture of Dr. James W. Washington Jr. after its unveiling February 26 in Midtown Square.

Fried Susan is a 40-year veteran photographer. Her early career included weddings, portraits and commercial work – moreover, sheI’ve been the Seattle photographer for The Skanner News for 25 years. His images appeared at the University of Washingtons The Daily, The Seattle Globalist, Crosscut and many more. She was a emerald contributor since 2015. Follow her on Instagram @fried.susan.

📸 Featured Image: The neon entrance sign to Midtown Square glows behind the sculpture of Dr. James W. Washington Jr. (Photo: Susan Fried)

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