Arlington Sound Garden
Carlos tries the drums while his sister Amanda and friends enjoy the sound of The Swirl at the Arlington Sound Garden after the bells and drums were installed by Scout Christian Bigger last week. The instruments were paid for by Arlington Arts Council and community donors.
Dreams of an interactive musical experience for the children, families and kids-at-heart in Arlington came to fruition last week when two more outdoor musical instruments were installed next to The Swirl at Arlington’s Sound Garden.
Scout Christian Bigger and his team of helpers installed bells and drums last Tuesday and spread bark where the grass was pounded by use of The Swirl through the past year. The Sound Garden is about 75 yards south of Legion Park in downtown Arlington.
Presented to the city of Arlington by the Arlington Arts Council, the Sound Garden was purchased with funds in part from last fall’s Fall into Art Auction, and donations from the community. The Rotary Club of Arlington helped by matching donations from the community to enable the purchase of drums and bells to finish the project.
Together with The Swirl xylophone, the colorful drums and the elegant, silver bells combine for a real orchestra of sounds as well as a sculptural splash of color and fun.
A driving force behind the concept, AAC board member Virginia Hatch knew that a Sound Garden would be perfect for Arlington when she heard of them more than 10 years ago.
“It’s a great place for families to interact and for individuals to take a few minutes just to have some fun,” Hatch said. “It has taken us ten years, but with assistance from Rotary, it’s finally finished and now it’s time to celebrate!”
AAC vice president Laura Kuhl, who also coordinates concerts at the Byrnes Performing Arts Center for AAC, pointed out that making music is not only fun, it also develops life skills.
She cited the Children’s Music Workshop, a music advocacy program, which claims that music “helps develop brain areas involved in language and reasoning.”
To learn a musical part, a child must coordinate with others, reinforcing teamwork skills. Learning to play an instrument teaches self-discipline and motor skills.
“The Arlington Sound Garden is a magical place,” Kuhl said. “We hope it will inspire children to know more about music and that they will have a great time making music with their friends and families.”
A big celebration is planned in September, during the annual Art in the Park. At 1 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 14, the annual Celebration of the Arts in Arlington reception will feature a professional ensemble, Batucada. Local middle school band teacher, Joe Horsak, has rallied the ensemble, with which he performs, to present a concert at the Sound Garden. Batucada will then entertain at Art in the Park all afternoon.
Batucada is the Brazilian word for the driving rhythms of the samba and the groups that play them. Samba was made world famous by the huge “samba schools” that parade during Carnivale season, but it is also played year round by smaller groups called batucadas.
Samba was introduced in Seattle 35 years ago largely by this ensemble, launching a movement across the U.S. Now dozens of samba groups perform in America, but Seattle’s Batucada Yemanjá was one of the first.
“The sounds of Brazil are totally danceable and engaging, so plan to move,” Horsak said. Horsak took the downtown Art Walk recently to see the Sound Garden and other art installations along the Centennial Trail, which have been presented to the city of Arlington by the Arlington Arts Council over the past 10 years.
“I can’t say how much I enjoyed the Art Walk and tour of downtown,” Horsak said. “After working indoors with kids all day, it was nice to take a walk outdoors and have a chance to see the art in downtown Arlington,” Horsak said.
The Sound Garden instruments were designed by a Grammy Award winning musician, Richard Cooke of Freenotes Harmony Park, and acquired from a playground equipment supplier in Issaquah.
Freenotes Harmony Park recognizes that music has been the heart of community building through the ages. “Music transcends all barriers of age, gender, ethnicity and physicality,” Cooke says.
The Sound Garden was started last summer with The Swirl, a xylophone of sorts, installed by Scout Trey Swanson for his Eagle Scout project. Anthony Gaskin, a young Arlington artist, painted the mural backdrop, which features a colorful collection of folk musicians, an image created by late AAC member Jim Walker and used with permission from his wife, Ruth Walker.
Donors last year included Gaskin Construction, Burlington Northern Santa Fe and Lauren Ernst. AAC Treasurer Jean Olson expressed thanks to the community for supporting the effort to bring musical expression to the community.
“We are so excited to have completed another project,” Olson said. “Now we can start working toward our next project, a tree sculpture for the empty circle in the 300 block of the Centennial Trail.”
The next Fall into Art Auction is traditionally set on the third Saturday in October–October 19 this year. Donations of all kinds are welcome. In the meantime, plan to attend the celebration in September and stop by the Arlington Sound Garden to make music with family and friends.