From the street, Charles Greening’s Meridian Archway (1981), the northwest entry to the Meridian Playground in Seattle’s Wallingford neighborhood, appears to be composed of one simple stone arch. But walk in and be prepared for a surprise. The entryway includes a unique walled switchback path constructed of thousands of rocks. Walking along the pathway, one can find a rich assortment of unusual stones, including Cascade river rocks, Mexican geodes, fossils from the Oregon coast, columnar basalt, snowflake obsidian, eastern Washington lava and large, black rocks gathered from the Toutle River before the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens. There are also large granite pieces that were made from former street curbs in downtown Seattle.
Greening also incorporated specific objects within the layered rocks, many donated by friends and neighborhood residents, including a shell from Greece, Apache tears (volcanic black glass)from Arizona, coral from Idaho, petrified sand dollars from San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park, bronze medallions, petrified wood and a collection of keys. The artist also collected pieces from various yard sales. Like a treasure hunt, you must look closely for unusual finds that are likely to turn up every few inches.
The entryway includes separate sections of conglomerate rocks, fossils, lava rocks and metamorphic rocks. The artist created the curves in the wall by cutting and carving the rock using the methods of traditional stonemasons that are seldom employed today. A recessed seat gives viewers a place to sit and rest. Small pockets filled with soil provide space for greenery or flowers.
Greening created Meridian Archway with the assistance of Mary Kern and Robert Williamson. He has created many other public artworks including Sundial, which was gifted to the city in 1978.
The artwork was funded by the Parks and Recreation Acquisition and Development Fund (Forward Thrust Bond Issue) 1% for Art funds, Seattle Design Commission and Wallingford Community Council.
-Joan Peterson, Public Art
IMAGES: Charles Greening; Meridian Archway; 1981; concrete, rocks, shells. Located at Meridian Playground in Wallingford, 4898 Meridian Ave. N.
Weekly Art Hit is featuring artworks every week from the ’70s, ’80s, ’90s and 2000s to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the city’s public art program.