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Art in Architecture: “Freedom” | Philip McCracken

Art in Architecture: “Freedom” | Philip McCracken

by Cynthia Henry

GSA commissioned Northwest artist Phillip McCracken (1928–2021) to create “Freedom” (1979) for the Jackson Federal Building in Seattle, Washington. The sculpture is a bird form partly enclosed by the bars of a cage, cast in bronze and mounted on a textured concrete pedestal. The artist stated that the sculpture is meant to be interpreted however each viewer personally sees it as representing their own idea of freedom. The artist talked about how the ancient medium of cast bronze has an unmistakable authority that he respected. He said that bronze is a powerful, fluent, and very durable material that relates well with the other materials used in construction of the Federal Building.

About the Artist

Philip McCracken was born in Bellingham, Washington, in 1928. After graduating from Anacortes High School in 1947, he began studying at the University of Washington (UW) with the intent of receiving a law degree, as his parents desired. When the Korean War broke out in 1950, McCracken joined the U.S. Army. After his discharge, he returned to UW, but this time to pursue his own dream of an art degree. In 1954, he earned a Bachelor of Arts in sculpture. 

Looking to further his knowledge in art, McCracken became a studio apprentice in England for the internationally acclaimed British sculptor Henry Moore. In 1955, McCraken and his wife moved to his family’s waterfront cabin on Guemes Island, Washington, to raise their family. He lived and made art on the island from 1955 to the end of his life in 2021.

McCracken’s work has been exhibited at the Smithsonian Institution, the Art Institute of Chicago, and the Museum of Northwest Art.

Throughout the year, we will highlight the artists and artworks in Region 10’s federal and leased spaces as we celebrate the 50th anniversary of GSA’s Art in Architecture program.