San Juan Islands Sculpture Park Makeover

San Juan Islands Sculpture Park President David Jenkins. Contributed Photo/James Mead Maya

By Francie Hansen, San Juan Island

Contributed Photo/

Have you been to the San Juan Islands Sculpture Park lately?

It’s had a make-over, thanks to the park’s president David Jenkins and a small group of committed islanders.

It’s the perfect place — winter, spring, summer, or fall — to walk (the park is both dog-friendly and child-friendly), sit on a bench, and quietly soak up the beauty of nature.

You can explore a whimsey walk in the woods, or play in the starfish/driftwood area with your children or grandchildren, or simply admire a wonderful collection of beautiful pieces of art, many of which were crafted by our talented island sculptors.

Recently I was inspired to speak with David about the park’s exciting transformation over recent years. Before retiring here on the island, he had worked at the Smithsonian for 10 years.

And from this perspective, he sees the park as a giant exhibit, with its gardens and art a perfect match for his talents.

“A good painting deserves a frame,” he said. “so at the park I create spaces like I would in a museum, ensuring that the art sits in the midst of the best possible environment.”

Contributed Photo/

David has improved the park’s grounds in a delightful way with numerous paths, benches, ponds, and gardens. His goal has been to extend the viewers’ sightlines in all directions, encouraging us to walk and explore in order to see even more.

78-year-old David can be found working on the grounds of the park early every morning, seven days a week. His enthusiasm for the park and his positive energy are worth noting. He is proud of the fact that some of the park’s pieces are for sale (proceeds are shared by the artists and the park itself, which uses the money for operating expenses), while others are purchased by the park for its permanent collection.

David would like to see more personal interaction and activities between the park’s artists and its visitors. He has loved the community’s receptiveness to new features such as the friendship totem, poems posted throughout the grounds, the sand play area for children with colorfully-painted driftwood and rocks, and the just-completed sound garden. He’s always receptive to new ideas, and has a few more irons in the fire!

Quick to deflect all the praise about his accomplishments at the park, David wanted to be sure to comment on the generosity of nearby Roche Harbor Resort (most recently facilitating the installation of a functional bathroom for guests), Kay and Arnie Kammerzell (who started the park 20 years ago), Rikki Swin (who led the board for many years), and the current board members: Marita Holdaway, Judith Wright, Cyrilla Torres Salsedo, Kim Bruder, and Farhad Ghatan; plus landscaper Derek Learned (whose dedication and creativity are always much appreciated).

David’s overarching goal at the park is to create an environment where people can learn. He cultivates its spaces with care and devotion, commenting “I wake up thinking: what do I want to do? What do I want to create at the park this morning?”

This is such an inspiring message for us all!


Posted on November 18, 2020 at 5:30 am by

Categories: Arts, Community

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