Robert Morris Earthwork
Artist Robert Morris removed undergrowth from an abandoned 3.7-acre gravel pit in SeaTac, terraced the earth, and planted it with rye grass. Morris returned the land to active use—40 years later, we value it as a gathering place and internationally-celebrated destination. Johnson Pit #30 was officially added to the National Register of Historic Places in October, 2021 for “significant contribution to the broad patterns of history,” embodiment of “distinctive characteristics,” and “high artistic values.” A contemporary earthwork has never received such status. "The Earthwork was the first publicly funded project to reclaim an industrially-abused site with art." - The Cultural Landscape Foundation
Watch the Seattle Southside Scenes Video on Robert Morris Earthwork
The next time you're in Peru, check out the Muyu-Uray Amphitheater. It's a culturally significant attraction with a fascinating backstory.
The next time you're in Seattle Southside, check out the Robert Morris Earthwork. It too is a culturally significant attraction with a fascinating backstory. But unlike the amphitheaters in Peru, it's not 4870 miles away.
First the backstory. 40 years ago, this place was a pit, literally. An abandoned gravel pit. It was a dumping ground on a landscape that looked out over Mount Rainier and the Kent Valley. Seeing an opportunity to rehabilitate the land artist, Robert Morris was commissioned to restore it to active use while creating an historic piece of art. Inspired by the ancient terraces of Peru, Morris carved concentric circles that descended to the base of the pit. Then he planted the slopes with wild rye grass, preserving the views over the valley. Believing that art has a responsibility to challenge the viewer, Morris left a row of blackened tree stumps reminding all of us of the cost of unchecked environmental practices.
Today the Robert Morris Earthwork is recognized as the first permanent land reclamation sculpture in the country, possibly the world. It's art and it's a link from our past to our future.
Visit Robert Morris Earthwork in SeaTac.
Seattle Southside RTA couldn't have developed this program without the support of our community. We would like to thank the following people for their support in the creation of this content:
Jordan Howland, 4Culture
Barbara McMichael, SoCo Culture
Ashley Young, City of Des Moines
The artwork is managed by 4Culture and is part of the King County Public Art Collection. View the project profile here.
Credit: Robert Morris (1931-2018). Untitled Earthwork (Johnson Pit #30), 1979. SeaTac, WA. 4Culture/King County Public Art Collection
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