Sound Garden blooms in Arlington

Arlington Boy Scout Trey Swanson, 14, tests out ‘The Swirl,’ the first piece in the Arlington Arts Council’s Sound Garden, that he helped install. - Kirk Boxleitner
Arlington Boy Scout Trey Swanson, 14, tests out ‘The Swirl,’ the first piece in the Arlington Arts Council’s Sound Garden, that he helped install.
— image credit: Kirk Boxleitner

ARLINGTON — “The first time we heard of it, we both wondered, ‘What the heck is a Sound Garden?’” said Jeff Swanson, who nonetheless found himself helping his 14-year-old son, Trey, install the first piece of the Arlington Arts Council’s planned Sound Garden in Legion Park this summer.

Trey Swanson was looking for an Eagle Scout project when he contacted city of Arlington Recreation Coordinator Sarah Lopez to see what he could do for the community this summer, but the Sound Garden has been on the Arlington Arts Council’s books for quite a while before that.

“We’ve been discussing it since at least 2004,” said Jean Olson, treasurer for the Arlington Arts Council. “When I first heard about it, I thought that it would be like wind chimes. I didn’t know they were going to be interactive musical instruments.”

Although the Swansons just recently installed “The Swirl,” an oversized xylophone that stands straight up and comes with two attached mallets with which to play it, Olson and Arlington Arts Council President Sarah Arney joined the Swansons in reporting having seen and heard a number of passers-by trying their hands at the instrument already.

“One person happened to be walking along Centennial Trail, right next to it, and stopped to play for what must have been an hour,” Arney said. “We wanted to show Arlington that we were committed to providing quality art, including musical opportunities. It’s fun for kids and families to experience together.”

While “The Swirl” cost $6,000, including shipping, the Rotary Club of Arlington has already pledged matching funds of $2,500 toward the next instrument. Arney and Olson agreed with fellow Arlington Arts Council member Marilyn Oertle that drums will probably pop up in Legion Park next.

“With the trail passing by this exact spot, it gives kids something to do along the way,” Oertle said. “As we get more pieces, they can really rock out.”

Olson and Arney pointed out that the instruments themselves are designed to provide soothing sounds, and are located relatively distant from any residences, so they shouldn’t rock too loudly for the tastes of any local homeowners.

For their part, Jeff Swanson estimated that Trey raised nearly $1,000 for materials and equipment to install “The Swirl” with family and fellow Boy Scouts. The elder Swanson thanked Rex’s Rentals for their equipment, Sherwin Williams for donating paint, Arlington Hardware for donating lumber, Coast Development for providing weatherproofing materials and Ernst for supplying funds for paint rollers and brushes.

“I’d never seen anything like this before, but it looks cool,” Trey Swanson said.

In addition to other instruments, the Sound Garden will also feature, as a backdrop, an enlarged mural version of a painting by former Arlington Arts Council member Jim Walker, who passed away several years ago. The Swanson family is installing the lumber and plywood frame for the mural.

“Walker’s illustration of traditional musicians will create a bright and colorful setting for a growing Sound Garden in the future,” said Lopez, who noted that the Arlington Arts Council Board selected it from their top three favorites at the 2011 Fall into Art Auction last October, which raised almost $10,000.

To donate to the Sound Garden, call 360-435-5866 or log onto


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