New Waterworks Aim To Please

An African sea serpent, a lion and a fish are the newest residents of Edwin Pratt Park in the Central Area. But don't worry - they don't bite. They just spray water.

The three animal sculptures are part of the new Lavizzo Water Play Area opening today, in memory of Dr. Blanche Lavizzo, the first medical director of the Odessa Brown Children's Clinic.

Dr. Lavizzo died in 1984.

A team of six local artists designed and constructed the interactive exhibit, a 70-foot-by-70-foot area featuring African-themed images and designs, including two water columns and an outline of Africa.

"We wanted exciting things that would really stimulate them," said Daniel Minter, one of the artists. "When the kids look at it, they'll take it the next step further, stimulate their imagination."

The play area sparkles with red, yellow, green, black, white and blue hues. Various symbols scattered around the sculpture represent African goddesses or themes like creation or motherhood.

The area intended for younger children features smaller water bursts and pressure similar to a hot tub. The main-area water spray is closer to the typical garden hose. Both are activated by three ground-level motion sensors.

The play area, at 20th Avenue South and East Yesler Way, is the first collaboration between artists and the city resulting in African-themed art, said Eric Salisbury, another artist.

"It's something done by the community for the community," he said. "It's not something commercial. You won't find nothing like this on Earth . . . it's very unique. To be part of this is an honor."

The artist team also included Marita Dingus, Monad Elohim, Roosevelt Lewis, and Samaj.

The project was funded by more than $215,000 in city and private money, said Rosemary Wills of the Seattle Department of Parks and Recreation.

The artists put the finishing touches on the exhibit yesterday morning.

"It's the most beautiful thing I ever saw," said Elohim, sitting on the grass in the bright sunshine. "Everyone worked so hard, and it's a wonderful result."