Let’s Go To The ‘New Beach’


nicole SCHLAEPPI • The Spectator

As a Hawaii native, I know a thing or two about beaches.

So when I heard about Seattle’s “New Beach,” I jumped at the chance to go—even if it was just an art installation.

That didn’t matter, only this: The word “beach” made me think of three things: gentle waves breaking, the warmth of the sun and grainy sand between my toes—the opposite of this cold, rainy city.

nicole SCHLAEPPI  •  The Spectator
nicole SCHLAEPPI • The Spectator

New Beach artists Max Kraushaar and Graham Downing appreciate the peace and tranquility of their artpiece.

It was never explicitly stated that the artists, Max Kraushaar and Graham Downing, would provide these three wishes at the Beach, but it was a chance worth taking. After all, the advertisements for the installation were intentionally ambiguous, and I was curious to find out more.

The website shows a 3-D faded pink text of “New Beach” bobbing up and down in a body of water.

Getting on the beach required a reservation made online 24 hours in advance for a five to 60 minute stint. Also, there were three rules: 1) Only one person on the beach at a time 2) No drugs or alcohol on the Beach, and 3) If you break it, you buy it.

Eager to experience all that the Beach had to offer, I booked the earliest time that my schedule allowed. On the day of my appointment, I faced the age-old predicament of figuring out what to wear. A swimsuit? No, this isn’t a real beach. But what if it’s hot? It’s not like wearing shorts in this weather is even possible. I decided on a short-sleeved top with a sweater—if there’s one thing I know about Seattle beaches, it’s to dress in layers.

As I walked into Seattle University’s Hedreen Gallery, the enclosed wooden cubicle structure in the middle of the room immediately grabbed my attention. There it was, painted on the door in white: “New Beach.” Never pictured a box-like structure, but the mystery within those four walls intrigued me even more.

In the gallery, I could hear the soothing sounds of waves breaking shore. I checked in with the attendant and prepared to check out of the hustle and bustle of city life.

When it was my turn, I pulled the door open, only to enter a smaller space—basically a little dressing room to hang up jackets and belongings before opening another door to the actual beach.

Opening the door revealed a small, empty square room. To my surprise, the sand wasn’t loose—it just had the appearance of being so. Light shone through a plastic sky ceiling, and it was nice and warm inside. The simplicity reminded me of a Zen garden.

nicole SCHLAEPPI  •  The Spectator
nicole SCHLAEPPI • The Spectator

New Beach artists Max Kraushaar and Graham Downing appreciate the peace and tranquility of their artpiece.

So there was the sand, the warmth of light, but no body of water. Just four blank, light grey walls staring back at me and only the sound of the wind and ocean waves to make up for what I couldn’t see.

I wasn’t sure how to spend my 20-minute appointment. At first I walked around the room for a bit looking at the details. Then I sat down and started using my phone—but like an actual beach, this was no way to be fully present. So I tossed the phone aside and lay down for a bit, closing my eyes.

For a while I almost forgot that I was in a gallery in Seattle on a rainy day. I enjoyed this alone time, and for a while I felt far away on some beach, with the sun warming my face, and the water singing like a lullaby.

Then I heard heels clicking from outside the Beach walls and women laughing and chattering, and I was reminded where I was—gloomy Seattle.

But at least I got to escape from it all, if only for a little.

“New Beach” is on display in Hedreen Gallery through Saturday, Feb. 14.