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Stolen Arboretum gate made by Seattle sculptor now reinstalled at park

The memorial gates were designed and built by renowned Seattle artists, George and Gerard Tsutakawa

SEATTLE — The works of Seattle sculptor Gerard Tsutakawa can be seen all over the city, from a metal sculpture of a baseball mitt in front of T-Mobile Park, to a "sea wave" sculpture installed at Climate Pledge Arena.

But one of his works at the Washington Park Arboretum has a special meaning.
 
It is a memorial gate that welcomes visitors into one of the park's entrances, but it's more than just a metal structure.

"They're really a sign of welcome, they're a sign of inclusion, and it's a way to say that we care that you're here," said Arboretum Foundation Executive Director Jane Stonecipher.

Tsutakawa's father, artist George Tsutakawa, designed the gate, which was installed at the Arboretum in 1976.

"His idea was to kind of create some of those softer shapes, the rounder shapes and put them into the design," Tsutakawa said.

Gerard, who goes by Gerry, was under apprenticeship at the time and built the gate. For decades, it graced the entrance to the Arboretum's famed Azalea Way.

But in March 2020, the gate was stolen for scrap metal.

"It was just mainly a downer at the beginning of COVID you know, to have the grief and I think the other thing is the Arboretum is so beloved by so many people," Tsutakawa said.

Seattle Police detectives have recovered parts of the gate, but not all of it. Gerard said he used what was recovered to refabricate the memorial gate.

On Wednesday, the Arboretum Foundation hosted a ribbon-cutting ceremony to commemorate the gate's return.

"To understand these gates, you have to actually go back to the original gates, in 1976. The idea was that they were in honor of all the people who visited and loved the Arboretum," Stonecipher said.

A fundraising campaign raised at least $160,000 to cover the cost of the gate's materials, management and installation, according to the Arboretum Foundation's website.

In January of this year, Tsutakawa said he began the refabrication process. By September, it was installed and officially back open.

"I think [my father] would be very pleased to see it back up and installed again," Tsutakawa said.

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