John Grade Sees Evolution in Not Only His Art but the Process in Which It Is Created

July 3, 2019
Note: This year we're featuring a number of artists involved in the 2019 Seattle Art Fair in various ways. John Grade and his studio are part of our 2019 VIP Program.

From Microsoft Corporate Headquarters to the Smithsonian Museum of American Art to the Grand Canyon National Park Service, John Grade’s fantastic creations have found their way to many notable institutions and locations around the world.

Adored by thousands, the awe-inspiring predominantly wooden sculptures he creates, which are the sum of a usually lengthy construction process, begin at a much more intimate and lucid place for Grade and his team: the impossible beauty of nature.
Two upcoming works in development at Grade's studio.

“I want to go into a hot air balloon and sky diving through a cloud for my future projects,” said Grade as he details what is driving his inspiration currently. “I love being out in these crazy places and having an excuse to be there; merging these recreational activities but looking for something more specific to spark a conversation about.”
Most recently found exploring God's Pocket Peak in Nevada and Isla Navarino, south of Tierra Del Fuego in Patagonia, Grade sees the time away from the hustle and bustle of civilization as a way to recharge his artistic batteries. On his travels, he discovers inspiration from the ever-changing canvas that is our planet.

Grade discusses the planning for his upcoming installation at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.

His treks into nature to find forms to emulate and iterate on through his art have mostly been a solitary process to this point. Previously in his career, the creation has mirrored the discovery – but in recent years, he’s transformed the production into a greatly collaborative experience.

“My nature is very much introverted, but that’s changed because it’s not how I spend my days anymore,” Grade said, regarding how his personality has developed given his growing team and scope of work. “I used to make objects in isolation and I would have a gallery show, but it was always me making something with a certain kind of control. Now, I’m able to communicate and look at what other people can do.”

The change to working at scale is one that excites him and originally began when he was commissioned to work on a massive 9-month long project, which forced him to enlist the help of additional sculptors to bring it to life. Now with a studio that houses upwards of 15 collaborators, Grade’s work has continued to grow in size, with work on an installation for Seattle-Tacoma International Airport currently in production.

A look inside John Grade's studio in the Rainier Beach neighborhood of Seattle.

A native of Minnesota, Grade has laid roots in Seattle with his Rainier Beach studio. With the Seattle Art Fair now entering its fifth year, he’s also seeing the expansion of the arts in the region, matched only by the scope of his extraordinary projects.

“It’s been really satisfying to see it grow and evolve, and just become something we have greater and greater expectations for,” said Grade. “The fair causes an amazing and exciting month for everyone. It’s spawning all this activity around it.”

The Seattle Art Fair is being held at the CenturyLink Field Event Center from August 1-4. Tickets are on sale now.