Art kills monotony

5 min read

When I get unique opportunities to bring art into people's lives in unusual ways, I jump on it.

One of my primary goals in life is to give others a break from the monotony of routine and greyness through art - both in viewing and participating. 

These collaborative community art projects were 1 part art : 3 parts people.

Part You

For this project, a diverse group of people of all ages came together to learn and make copper leaves at a series of Create Parties.

The resulting giant leaf pile, reminiscent of one you'd jump in as a kid when a sense of wonder was more easily found in simple pleasures, was shown at Traver Gallery in Seattle where participants continued to make leaves to add to the growing pile. 

Events were held at small neighborhood locations like Tin Dog Brewery, the South Park library, fairs like Art Under $100 in Georgetown, as well as The Bellevue Art Museum and Pratt Fine Arts.

Participants were invited to make a metal leaf by learning to press a precut thin piece of copper into a mold. Once they got vein impressions from the mold, I taught them to hammer additional details into the leaf on pieces of wood clamped to tables. 

For one of the events, at Pratt Fine Arts, we taught people to enamel the copper leaves. This is the process of sifting powdered glass to the metal and fusing it in a hot 1500 degree kiln. 

After months of working with various groups in different locations around the city, the pile was installed as part of a solo exhibition at Traver Gallery. In addition to one of a kind sculptures, the leaf pile was accompanied by a leaf making station.

Leaf makers had their picture added to the gallery wall. 

From the start of the exhibition to the end, the leaf pile grew about a foot all around, with the participation of gallery visitors - a great example of what we can accomplish as a collective.

It was a joy for people to be surprised with getting to make art themselves when visiting the gallery. 

Part you was made possible (in part), by a grant from the Seattle Office of Arts and Culture. As well as support, space and time donations by South Park Arts, the South Park Library, Pratt Fine Arts Center, Seattle Metals Guild, Bellevue Museum of Art, and Tin Dog Brewing. 

Part You is still available and looking for a public home! 

The original intent for this project was to sell it to raise money for Pratt's scholarship program. Some things don't go as planned. Since that didn't work out, it is available for donation to a public space. It can be installed as the big leaf pile or leaves could be mounted to a ceiling or wall for a unique wall-paper affect. Preference will be given to a location that has at least some hours open to the public. 

If interested, contact


I was fortunate to be among the many artists and performers who participated in Duwamish Revealed, a summer long, multi-faceted event celebrating Seattle's only river, the Duwamish.

Together with the community, we created a piece called Cultivate  - 2 enormous, temporary panels hanging from the towers of the South Park bridge, made of recycled cans, plastic bottles and fishing nets.

This 6 month project in the South Park neighborhood of Seattle involved hundreds of people, mountains of recycled trash, and a creative vision. 

The concept was inspired by the clean-up and restoration of the river. 

It's hard to believe that we turned garbage bags full of trash into something beautiful.

We collected empty aluminum cans and plastic bottles from schools, offices, theaters bars, and individuals. 

Next we held multiple Create Parties at the neighborhood bar, a brewery, and my studio. Both Loretta's and Lowercase Brewing generously let us take over their patio spaces to sort, cut, and make flowers out of aluminum cans. 

A new take on craft club... everyone in the neighborhood (and beyond) was invited to hang out, socialize, and participate in whatever way suited them. 

Many people came to multiple events and singlehandedly mastered the art of aluminum can flower making. Alex and Kinsey (shown above left) were among the best.

Simultaneously, I sorted, cut and stapled hundreds of plastic bottles into flower shapes in my South Park studio. I was buried in old water, gatorade, soda and juice bottles for weeks. 

This project wouldn't have happened without my wonderful primary assistants:
Elizabeth Knopf, Jen Nye, and Nancy Zugschwerdt.

Above, Jen, Nancy, and Elizabeth (left, foreground) along with Kitty Kavanaugh (standing) finishing trimming zip-ties the evenings before install in the empty lot next to the bridge. Kitty was instrumental in bringing invaluable install help through her experience and her associates from the theater design community. 

Loki Fish Co and YMS Recycling donated remnants of old fishing nets no longer suitable for fishing. Western Ports Transportation donated the temporary use of a large empty warehouse space so we could lay everything out and ziptie all the parts together.

In addition to staging at Western Ports' warehouse, we laid out netting and attached 'flowers' in the park, at my studio, and lastly in the empty lot next to the newly built South Park bridge off 14th. There we laid out huge sheets of black plastic, put the fishing net/flower panels on top, and rolled them into giant art burritos. 

On installation day, neighbors and friends gathered to carry the panels up the bridge and using ropes, we hoisted them up to the towers. This was a surprisingly simple, yet complicated, feat of strength in numbers, ingenuity, and luck. 

It was an exciting and fun day, not unlike a community barn raising, all hands on deck on land and in the water. People assisted from below in kayaks and small boats, while above we raised the burrito, lowered and unfurled the panels, then whisked away the support plastic below. 

Above pics are of the south tower and below, steps were repeated on the north tower.

This project was equally about building a sense of community and camaraderie through art as it was about creating an installation to be seen by boat during the Duwamish Revealed festivities.

Everyone who participated experienced the joy of creating something unexpected with their hands while also getting a supportive social fix. Those who helped with the install experienced a sense of shared accomplishment that can only come from a collective effort. 

The final result: community created, recycled art panels suspended from the bridge towers.

The appearance changed with light and shadow and with different perspectives from water and bridge. 

At the end of the summer, it was time to take down the panels. This became another big community event, though quieter than the first. We carefully rolled up and lowered the panels onto a waiting boat, then downriver, removed them by crane onto a waiting truck.

We brought them back to my studio where they were taken apart. Most was sent back to recycling but the metal flowers that were still in good shape found their way to homes and fences throughout the neighborhood. 

Creating these interactive, collaborative pieces reminded me that one of the most empowering aspects of art is in its ability to bring people together. 

Which brings me to my current endeavor...


I host a free monthly art club with the aim of generating creativity and companionship through art making.

Projects vary from drawing to block printing to collage. This is not a class but a community of people coming together to make art. Just for the fun of it. 

If you're interested in joining us, contact me at

Catherine Grisez

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