Fifty strangers take a walk

The Long Walk, 50 participants
The Long Walkers gather at Snoqualmie Falls for a group photo
at the end of their four-day journey.

People walk for all sorts of different reasons; their health, a way to de-stress after a long workday, a daily responsibility to a beloved dog or simply to get from point A to point B. At the very least, we know that we can lump everyone into that last group, but what would happen if we pushed aside these typical walking scenarios and instead, applied a new reason to walk –  ART. I suspect that you might be thinking this sounds just like a Thursday night art walk in some downtown neighborhood, but no, you’re not even close.

This idea, this form of contemporary public art is called, The Long Walk.’ It is larger than one place, one space, one person or one time. It arrives as a moving, breathing and living community of fifty strangers trekking more than 45 miles through the King County Regional Trail System over the course of four days and it vanishes just as quickly as they came.

Hitting pause on the pace of our busy lives can feel like a difficult thing to do and is easier said than done, but for fifty self-selecting people, The Long Walk was the perfect opportunity to do just that. They set out to not only observe their surroundings through a new, focused lens, but to also experience the time and space in a way that revealed new thoughts, questions and a deeper sense of appreciation for their connection to the outdoors.

Artist and creator of The Long Walk, Susan Robb, describes one of her experiences during this year’s walk:

One of the most powerful interactions I had with nature was when we were closest to the city. At around 5:30 in the morning, camped on the grass by Hangar 30 at Sandpoint Magnuson Park, a flock of geese flew over us. They flew so low that not only could I hear them flap their wings and feel their bodies above me, but I could hear the expressiveness of their honking, the inhalations and exhalations of a dozen or more birds, and the way the stillness of the morning and the sheer number of geese metamorphosed their calls into something that sounded technological, mechanical, or synthesized. Tucked in my tent I saw them anew through sound.

From Susan’s vivid example and others we’ve heard among the now close-knit group, we know that The Long Walk is an experience like no other. It is an expression of free-form public art that truly is accessible to virtually anyone, thanks in part to the support dedicated by King County’s cultural services agency, 4Culture, and its commitment to creating unique art and cultural opportunities that strengthen our shared communities around these intrinsic values.

Jordan Howland, project manager of public art for 4Culture, shares how the impression of The Long Walk is long lasting:

Each year the dynamic of The Long Walk changes with new participants and commissioned artists. What stays the same? The community bond, excitement about the natural beauty of our region, renewed interest in exploration by foot, and the transformative potential of slowing down and opening up.

For more insider stories of The Long Walk experience, we encourage you to turn to 4Culture’s blog posts here and here.

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