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Sketches explore Seattle at MOHAI

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On view now until May 26, 2014, Drawn to Seattle: The Work of Seattle Sketcher Gabriel Campanario at the Museum of History and Industry (MOHAI) offers a guide book to both historical and current Seattle. Born in Barcelona, Spain, Campanario touched down several places before arriving in Seattle where he discovered a "way to deal with the stress of landing in unknown territory . . . drawing what I saw." In 2006, he began working as a graphic artist at The Seattle Times, and his editors liked his sketches so much that he started a regular column of sketches and commentaries in 2009. The exhibit at MOHAI is the first of this work.

And what an exhibit it is, filling a number of gallery rooms with portable walls featuring the small water color and pencil sketches, enlarged versions, and the artist's commentaries. Fittingly, it begins with sketches of MOHAI's artifacts and a story of the staff packing them up for their move from the old site near the University of Washington to South Lake Union. That's followed by a display of iconic Seattle: the P-I globe, GasWorks Park, and--of course--the Space Needle. Drawings of the Monorail include comments by workers such as three of the Lost Boys of Sudan, who fled the civil war in their country in the late 1980s.

Campanario's study continues with stories of communities and specific people such as the urban gardeners at the Mercer Garage rooftop p-patch and people fishing off piers, the Phinney tool library and a week spent sampling the lunches from food trucks.

There are discoveries even for a longtime resident like myself such as the mini-libraries (nearly 50 of them) where you can leave a book and take one. A sketch of Margaret Opalka's library in Mt. Baker shows an old saucer-shaped sled topped by a yellow croquet ball. And on Capital Hill, you can pick up a poem from Mary Kollar's wooden mailbox or grab one at the poem bench in Wallingford.

Neighborhood struggles also appear here. White Center changing its image from crime to cuisine. South Park surviving till the new bridge is built. Plus controversies: sketches of taxis in the debate over whether app-based ride services should be equally regulated. And Ballard home owner Edith Macefield's refusal to sell to developers while they surrounded her with a five-storey retail and commercial complex.

In keeping with MOHAI's interactive approach, there are sketching hints and pencils and notebooks, plus a video showing Campanario's process. He is the founder of an international nonprofit supporting the work of urban sketchers. For more information, click on http://www.urbansketchers.org/

The exhibit includes notebooks from the Seattle chapter of Urban Sketchers and there will be urban sketcher events on Saturdays until May 24. Campanario will give a talk at MOHAI on January 30 at 7 pm. For directions and further information, visit http://www.mohai.org/

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