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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Rock stacks appear in Kendall Yards

Urban rock sculptures have been appearing over the past several months in the rock-strewn field in Kendall Yards. (Colin Mulvany)
Urban rock sculptures have been appearing over the past several months in the rock-strewn field in Kendall Yards. (Colin Mulvany)

The undeveloped portion of Kendall Yards at the northwest end of the Monroe Street Bridge has become a new display ground for an interesting form of art.

Ingenious stacks of rocks have been multiplying across the property since at least winter.

The flat area south of Summit Parkway and west of the Monroe Street Bridge is now filled with dozens of the pieces, including a central display built in a circle.

To the imaginative, the work could be reminiscent of Stonehenge. And indeed, such art forms have roots in the mysticism of ancient cultures. Consider that the Kendall Yards pieces are just below the lower Spokane Falls, an important location to native tribes.

The artist or artists are not known, but the work is gaining attention and respect from passers-by.

“They’ve obviously got an artistic eye,” said Marilu Garcia, a downtown worker who was walking by the display on her way to work recently.

“I’ve seen birds and I’ve seen one that almost looked like a cowboy with a cowboy hat,” she said.

Yes, art is in the eye of the beholder.

It’s an expression that has gained popularity over the years and is most often associated with nature.

The Kendall Yards stacks use combinations of large and small rocks; rocks with angled edges; and rocks with smooth, rounded edges. Hunks of broken concrete, old asphalt and broken bricks are mixed in for texture, color and an urban touch. Gravity and balance keep it all together.

“I can’t stack rock like that,” Garcia said.

The rock art pieces started appearing months ago after earth movers and trucks finished grading and contouring the property following construction last year of an underground stormwater tank next to the bridge.

The display stands day after day without being knocked over or vandalized.

In their most basic forms, rock stacks, which also are known as cairns, are used to point the way along obscure trails. Smaller stacks of three to five stones are frequently seen along the region’s rivers and mountainsides, with larger stones at the bottom and smaller ones at each layer up the stack. They are likely the work of folks who appreciate the natural surroundings.

Cairns can have a more utilitarian use such as the foundation for fence posts. They are used in historical markers, including the Mullan Road landmark at 57th Avenue and the Palouse Highway.

Kendall Yards isn’t the only location for the more artistic cairns. They have been showing up in other places, including several art stacks along Aubrey L. White Parkway at Downriver Golf Course.

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