Coffee With Sean Albert: Tukwila artist lends hand to parks, open space

Sean Albert strongly believes parks play a vital role in the livability of Tukwila. That's why the Tukwila resident doesn't hesitate to jump in to volunteer as a city parks commissioner and park steward.

Sean Albert volunteers to help keep Tukwila parks and open space a vital part of the community.

Sean Albert strongly believes parks play a vital role in the livability of Tukwila. That’s why the Tukwila resident doesn’t hesitate to jump in to volunteer as a city parks commissioner and park steward.

“I’m a big advocate for open space,” Albert said, of his passion for parks. “I want to try to keep as much open space available for citizens as possible, so it’s not gobbled up by condos, retail or warehouses.”

Albert, 35, has served on the parks commission for about 18 months. The five-member commission meets the third Wednesday of each month and advises the Tukwila City Council about the acquisition, development, expansion and operation of parks, recreational facilities and programs.

“It’s nice to know what’s happening in the parks department in Tukwila,” Albert said. “My wife and I walk around Tukwila a lot with our dogs to take advantage of the parks.”

Albert and his wife, Patty Cokus, bought a home in north Tukwila in 2006. Albert grew up in Maine and Cokus in New York. But they love living on the West Coast.

“I like the proximity to the city (of Seattle) and to the amazing outdoors,” said Albert, a fan of hiking and skiing. “There are not a lot of other places like it, except maybe Colorado.”

Although he may draw some Tukwila attention for his role in parks, Albert is an internationally recognized glass artist. It’s a calling that has generated buzz in the Pilchuck Glass School, the Dale-Chihuly-founded academy, where Albert received a full scholarship and was selected as a Pilchuck Emerging Artist in Residence. He also has collections or permanent installations Denmark and Scotland, as well as Microsoft offices in Bellevue.

His work can be seen locally at the Traver Gallery in downtown Seattle.

He crafts mainly abstract pieces, mostly sculptures.

But when outside of the studio, Albert spends a lot of time not far from his house as a park steward for the Duwamish Riverbend Hill Preservation Project, an 8.6-acre hill near the 3800 block of South 115th Street. Phase One of the project opened to the public in September.

Albert is a member of the Friends of the Hill, a group of neighbors who partnered with the Cascade Land Conservancy and the city of Tukwila to help turn the hill above the Duwamish River into open space rather than an industrial area.

“The site was a dumping zone for quite a few years,” Albert said. “The plan was to dynamite the rock outcrop and build a warehouse.”

Now as a park steward Albert helps organize monthly work parties to restore the area by removing invasive species and planting native trees and bushes.

“It’s a diamond in the rough,” Albert said. “It’s been a huge transition the last four years since we moved to the neighborhood. It’s great to see the progress.”

The reward for Albert grows greater when others who were first involved in saving the site return to see how much the former dump has changed.

“People who had been there early on come back and are blown away with the work that’s gone on,” he said. “Or they see a tree that they planted that is still thriving.”

Albert wants residents to know that more volunteers are needed to help with parks and open space in the city. The city still has a vacant parks commissioner position and Albert can always use more help at the Duwamish Riverbend Hill Preservation Project.

For more information about the parks commission, call 206-768-2822. To volunteer for the Duwamish work projects, go to www.cascadeland.org/events.

To view some of Albert’s latest artwork, visit the Traver Gallery at www.travergallery.com/gallery_artist_details/Sean-Albert.aspx.

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