Experience Art and Connection at Monarch Sculpture Park in Tenino Through Local Artist Installations and Family Activities

a red metal sculpture at Monarch Park in Tenino
Mryna features many of her own pieces in the park with the drive to spark conversation on pressing issues. Her steel metal sculpture 'A Delicate Balance' comments on the toxicity of plastic as we balance our environmental world and modern needs. Photo credit: John Brooks

Art allows us to express ourselves and connect in many ways, from capturing our natural world to sparking conversation about pressing issues. The creators of Monarch Sculpture Park in Tenino saw an opportunity to combine these elements of art by providing a space for local artists and community members to engage meaningfully with each other. Spanning five acres with a range of locally crafted pieces and natural landscapes, it is the perfect place to gain some new artistic inspiration or to simply enjoy the beauty of the Pacific Northwest. Monarch Sculpture Park can be accessed from the Chehalis Western Trail off Waldrick Road in Tenino.

Olympia Federal Savings LogoWhere It All Began for Monarch Park

Park Founder Myrna Orsini is a master stone carver who has been active in the international art community throughout her life. She attended symposiums in Europe and discovered they were offering places for artists to stay, work and share their art in a public setting. “I thought, ‘why can’t I do something like this in Washington, in my home state?’” shares Myrna. Myrna came home with a desire to incorporate local art in an open, public space, but wasn’t sure quite where to begin. “I had mentioned the project to one of my students, who was a retired federal judge,” Myrna recalls. “She said she would match me dollar for dollar to make it happen, so we started looking for property.”

In 1994, Myrna established Monarch Sculpture Park as a nonprofit with the intention of making the park available for community members as a public service. Two years later, the property was purchased and Monarch Sculpture Park officially opened its grounds to the public in 1998. Myrna immediately began formulating opportunities to feature local and international artists to promote connection through art the way she had seen in Europe. In 1999, Monarch Sculpture Park hosted a stone symposium and welcomed 11 artists from 9 different countries. “Their work started the basis for the collection in the park,” Myrna shares.

A Place for Art and Community in Tenino

a rainbow sculpture at Monarch Park in Tenino
John has contributed many pieces to Monarch Sculpture Park, including his ceramic rainbow arch titled ‘A Space for Us.’ Photo credit: John Brooks

Today, Monarch Sculpture Park eagerly welcomes new local artists and community members to contribute to the installations in the park. The park features over 150 pieces in the permanent collection and is ever-growing as new ideas and artists come forward. “One of the main reasons for the park is to assist artists,” says Myrna. “If someone is interested in an artist’s work, we connect them so they can make the sale. Some artists even donate the funds right back into the park.” As a nonprofit organization, Monarch Sculpture Park is fully operated on a donation basis and all staff work on a volunteer basis at no cost to the park. “Every penny goes right back into the park,” Myrna shares.

Groundskeeper and General Manager John Brooks is one such volunteer staff member that is deeply passionate about art and inviting the local community to create and contribute. “There is a big emphasis on providing places for families to come in and experience art,” he shares. “We have a lot of interactive and playful pieces that provide general education for people as well as a way to just have fun.”

eramic pieces themed around the coral reef. at Monarch Park in Tenino
John and Myrna are eager to provide opportunities for the local community to create and contribute to the park. Recently, families have been invited to create as part of an addition to the butterfly maze. This art pop-up gives children and adults a chance to create ceramic pieces themed around the coral reef. Photo credit: John Brooks

Regular features include a sound garden where visitors can play musical instruments, as well as a butterfly maze complete with locally contributed artistic pieces. “The butterfly antennae are made of square tiles created by the community,” shares Myrna. “It is really exciting and pleasing to see an adult or child come into the park and see that their creation is part of the park collection.” Currently, John has been running an art pop-up every Sunday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. where community members can learn how to work with ceramic and clay to make coral reef themed pieces. “We love to focus on creating immersive experiences that people can be a part of,” says John.

Many of the pieces in the park are driven by current issues to create a space for meaningful conversation about the things we all face. “Issues will change and things will come and go with that,” says Myrna. “It is an important way to connect with the community on important issues and using art as the medium.” One of Myrna’s personal installations is centered around environmental concerns and includes a red steel balance to comment on the critical state of balance we are in with the world around us. For Myrna and John, it is essential to invite an open dialogue and create positive change and movement through their art, and many of the visitors have been eager to join the conversation.

Become a Part of the Monarch Park Collection

group artist activity at Monarch Sculpture Park in Tenino
Monarch Sculpture Park features many activities and opportunities for people to connect. Art pop-ups allow families to come create something special to feature in the park, such as this Coral Reef Pop-Up that has been running on Sundays from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Pictured from left: Alisa, Ezra, Micah, Joanne, Alyssa, Justin, rance, Charlie, Andrea and Jordan. Photo credit: John Brooks

In addition to the local community, the park in Tenino also features professional artists looking to have a home for their legacy. Over the years, the park has received legacy gifts from multiple revered and established artists in the surrounding areas. In March, the park was gifted 50 pieces as part of the Stewart Luckman collection, who was a sculptor that passed away and wished for his art to be given to a park in the area. University of Washington Professor of Art Valentine Wellman had visited Monarch Sculpture Park and decided upon his passing to donate his life’s work of paintings and drawings to the park. They are grateful to receive such gifts to showcase the surrounding art community, and is always open to receive donations of pieces as part of an artist’s legacy.

Monarch Sculpture Park is a place for everyone, whether you are an experienced artist or a family looking for a day out to play and connect. They are always happy to accept donations and welcome volunteers to the project, even just for occasional short-term support. However you wish to be involved, Monarch Sculpture Park is truly a special gift for the community that offers opportunities for everyone to create and connect.

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