Officially it is called Webster’s Woods Art Park (WWAP), but in many ways, it is a forest or art trail. Regardless, it is definitely not like any art park I have ever seen before - in person or on the Internet. The five-acre park, with its 125 artworks located on a hill just a 20-minute walk from downtown Port Angles is arguably the best art park in North America and maybe the world. It is definitely a hidden gem!
No joke. Just a few days earlier, we were in Seattle enjoying and marvelling at their Olympic Park with its mega iconic sculptures by world-renowned artists but it didn’t come close to engaging us visually, mentally and physically, as did WWAP. Nor did it take us two hours to explore, or get us as excited by the constant joy of discovery.
WWAP is a heavily forested (almost rain forest-like) park with rustic, root-infested trails overgrown with ground cover; this is no walk in the park. And though there is an open meadow area that makes for a more conventional art park, the majority of the park is up and down for the most part gentle hills that do however require some tricky footwork. This is not a groomed park with static artworks but a living artwork that changes with the seasons. For those of you familiar with Calgary, it would be like transforming the Douglas Fir Trail into an art park. Hey – that a good idea!
It certainly appealed to our love of treasure hunting. As you walk gingerly along the narrow trails you have to constantly keep your eyes looking up, down and all around to “find” the unmarked art. Most of the art is well integrated into nature, so you really have to look. Over the years, some become overgrown by nature, merely adding to the integration of art and nature.
The aesthetic experience doesn’t end with the man-made artworks. The quality of the light filtered by the trees and vegetation is mesmerizing. The shapes of the living and dead vegetation create their own art forms. The synergy is exhilarating.
With few labels and information panels and no maps; this is not a pretentious art park that thinks it is a museum. Nobody is trying to impress you with a “who’s who” of public artists. The artworks range from decorative, to whimsical and from political to social commentary, some are very clever, while others are kitschy.
The park is open daylight hours year round and is free, as is the Port Angeles Art Centre, a contemporary house that offers intimate exhibitions, a small gift shop and restrooms. Spend 30 minutes or 3 hours here, it will appeal to people of all ages and backgrounds. However, you will need good footwear and the ability to climb uneven trails.
Where to stay?
The Port Angeles Red Lion Hotel is well situated and centrally located l right on the waterfront. Get a room on the harbour side and you can watch the boats and ferry come and go. Book a bike (they rent them and the first hour is free to ride up WWAP or along the waterfront trail.
You can also easily explore historic downtown Port Angeles with its murals, sculptures, shops and eateries on foot from the Red Lion.