Examining an Alternative Take on Urban Development: The Alignment of Public Art and Conservation to Build Seattle’s Olympic Sculpture Park

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Civic boosters advocate physical arts development as a path for urban revitalization. Current research examines these specialized bricks and mortar efforts through snapshot outcome evaluations, broad policy analyses, and critiques of predatory activity. Project development is overlooked as is whether such efforts mirror general urban development patterns and behavior. This case study explores a successful dual-nonprofit partnership between the Seattle Art Museum and the Trust for Public Land to build the Olympic Sculpture Park. This recent history explains institutional motivations and political strategies and identifies organizational assets employed to overcome intense market pressures and past failures. It adds richness to conventional development wisdom and its intense focus on public–private partnerships as the prevalent model for urban development. This alignment between a local arts institution and a national conservation organization may unveil an alternative model or shed light on a less visible structure for developing urban civic amenities. This study further reinforces the connection between contemporary urban improvement and early beautification agendas via municipal art, open space, and civic leadership.