Construction begins on Seattle Asian Art Museum Renovation and Expansion

Public Groundbreaking Ceremony Commemorates Start of Work on Major Project to Preserve and Expand Museum’s Historic Art Deco Building in Seattle’s Volunteer Park

Seattle Art Museum (SAM) executives, joined by City of Seattle leaders, project donors and supporters, and members of the community, gathered at the Seattle Asian Art Museum on Tuesday, March 13 for an official groundbreaking ceremony to mark the start of the renovation and expansion of the museum’s landmark building. After years of design planning with the City, parks groups, and community stakeholders, followed by months of preparation, work on the building has begun and will conclude with the anticipated reopening of the museum in fall 2019.

L to R: Seattle Asian Art Museum campaign co-chairs Gursharan Sidhu (SAM Trustee) and Mimi Gardner Gates (SAM Director Emerita); Winnie Stratton (SAM Board of Trustees President); Kimerly Rorschach (SAM’s Illsley Ball Nordstrom Director and CEO); Michael Shiosaki (Director of Planning and Development at Seattle Parks and Recreation); and Stewart Landefeld (SAM Board of Trustees Chair)

In her remarks at the groundbreaking ceremony, Kimerly Rorschach, SAM’s Illsley Ball Nordstrom Director and CEO, thanked attendees and supporters and reiterated the need to preserve and update the Seattle Asian Art Museum’s building—gifted to the city by SAM’s founder in 1933. “For the last 20 years, we’ve known the day would arrive when we needed to restore this architectural treasure that houses one of the most important Asian art collections in the country,” Rorschach noted. “That day has come.”The Seattle Asian Art Museum renovation and expansion project takes an early 20th-century building and brings it up to 21st-century standards.

The project not only ensures for years to come the Seattle Asian Art Museum’s role as a world-class cultural resource and park amenity for residents and visitors, but it also enhances SAM’s ability to share its significant Asian art collection and better serve a growing and increasingly diverse audience. The renovation and expansion preserves the 1933 historic building and its Art Deco façade; improves the museum’s infrastructure; protects the collection with climate control and seismic system upgrades; enhances ADA accessibility; and improves the museum’s connection to Volunteer Park, including the restoration of historic pathways in the park. An expansion in the back of the historic building provides approximately 13,900 square feet of much-needed new space, but changes the museum’s footprint in the park by only 3,600 square feet (less than one quarter of one percent of the park’s 48-acre total), because it is spread over three floors. The project adds a new exhibition gallery, a dedicated education space, and a new conservation laboratory.

The SAM renovation and expansion project provides many public benefits that include:

    • A partnership with Seattle Public Schools which includes 7 in-school education programs and 75 free school group field trips annually
    • Eight workshops, 3 day-camps, and 15 free lectures and panel discussions
    • A $50,000 scholarship assistance fund with annual escalation
    • An annual public cultural event

The project design team includes Seattle-based project architect LMN Architects (2016 AIA National Architecture Firm of the Year Award recipient), landscape architect Walker Macy, general contractor/construction manager BNBuilders, Inc., and OAC Services, Inc., providing construction and project management services. The Seattle Art Museum continues to work closely with Seattle Parks & Recreation, which owns the building and maintains Volunteer Park.

The renovation and expansion of the Seattle Asian Art Museum is funded by a mixture of public and private funds. The City is contributing $21 million to the estimated $54 million project, other funding has been secured from, Washington State, and King County, as well as significant gifts and pledges from individuals and foundations. The public fundraising campaign continues.


The Asian Art Museum is the original home of SAM. Set in the bucolic surroundings of the Olmsted-designed Volunteer Park in Capitol Hill, the Art Deco building was designed by Charles Bebb and Paris-trained architect Carl Gould in 1933. In the same year, museum founder Dr. Richard E. Fuller donated the building to the city. It opened its doors on June 23, 1933, presenting its founding collection of Asian art to the citizens of Seattle.

Following the opening of the Seattle Art Museum in downtown Seattle in 1991, the museum reopened as SAM’s center for Asian art and cultural activities in 1994. Its collection now features Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Indian, Himalayan, and Southeast Asian art. Its offerings include popular public programming by the Gardner Center for Asian Art and Ideas, and the McCaw Foundation Library,

The museum’s landmark building is included in the Washington Heritage Register of Historic Places. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in July 2016, joining Volunteer Park which was previously listed in 1976.

For more information on the Seattle Asian Art Museum renovation and expansion project, please visit For construction updates, please visit


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Summer Arts Partnership Institute Recap

On August 17, 2017, Seattle Art Museum (SAM) hosted the fourth Creative Advantage Summer Arts Partnership Institute for classroom teachers, teaching artists, administrators, youth development workers, and community members.

Dancers from Northwest Tap Connection opened the day with a rousing performance garnering multiple standing ovations, that showcased the skill, passion, and creativity of three incredible youth performers.

Leaders from the Office of Arts & Culture, SAM, and Seattle Public Schools (SPS) contextualized the day through a lens of racial equity and social justice, which serves a foundation for The Creative Advantage, our citywide initiative that is reinvesting in equitable access to arts education for all SPS students.

Author, professor, and activist, Dr. Shawn Ginwright provided a timely and relevant keynote entitled, “Radically Healing Schools and Communities: The Power of Policy from the Heart.” Dr. Ginwright and teacher activist and organizer, Farima Pour-Khorshid, offered sessions on his Radical Healing Framework, which is based in the premise that, “Radical healing involves addressing both (1) collective healing, and also (2) transforming the institutions, policies, and systems that are causing harm in the first place.”

Local teaching artists Lauren Atkinson (visual arts) and Roberto Ascalon (poetry, creative writing) engaged participants in creative reflection workshops to unpack what it means for practitioners and administrators to be authentic, take risks, and work in community.

Thank you to those who were able to attend, and benefit from this powerful day of learning and building.  For more information on professional development opportunities, please visit the Office of Arts & Culture

Join us for the fourth annual Creative Advantage Summer Institute

Thursday, August 17, 2017; 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Seattle Art Museum 1300 First Ave Seattle, WA 98101
Register This free, one-day workshop will include inspiring presentations by national thought leaders, hands-on art-making activities and opportunities to network and collaborate with peers. This year we welcome Dr. Shawn Ginwright, a founder and Chief Executive Officer of Flourish Agenda in San Francisco and an Associate Professor of Education in the Africana Studies Department and Senior Research Associate for the Cesar Chavez Institute for Public Policy at San Francisco State University, as this year’s keynote speaker.  Dr. Ginwright is a leading national expert on African American youth, youth activism, and youth development.

Advanced registration required, includes lunch and eight (8) Washington State Clock Hours.

About Dr. Shawn Ginwright Dr. Ginwright is an Associate Professor of Education in the Africana Studies Department and Senior Research Associate for the Cesar Chavez Institute for Public Policy at San Francisco State University. In addition, he is also a founder and Chief Executive Officer of Flourish Agenda, whose mission is to design strategies that unlock the power of healing and engage youth of color and adults in transforming their schools and communities. Flourish Agenda does this through its Radical Healing model, which builds social emotional well-being and leadership development through transformative experiences and new technology tools.

In 2011, Dr. Ginwright was awarded the prestigious Fulbright Senior Specialist award from the State Department for his outstanding research and work with urban youth. He is the author of “Hope and Healing in Urban Education: How Activists and Teachers are Reclaiming Matters of the Heart,” “Black in School- Afrocentric Reform, Black Youth and the Promise of Hip-Hop Culture,” and co-editor of “Beyond Resistance!: Youth Resistance and Community Change: New Democratic Possibilities for Practice and Policy for America’s Youth.” In 2010, he published “Black Youth Rising, Activism and Radical Healing in Urban America”.

Celebrating Black History Month in Seattle 2017

February marks the beginning of Black History Month, but residents of Seattle are able to celebrate and learn about the rich cultural history of Blacks and African-Americans all year long. In honor of Black History Month we have compiled a few events to mark on your calendar in February. 

ONYX Fine Art 12th annual exhibit
Thru February 18, 2017 King Street Station, 3rd Floor
303 S. Jackson St.
Seattle, WA 98104

Truth B Told, exhibiting visual artistic expressions by artists of African descent in the Pacific Northwest.

Northwest African American Museum
What the Griot Said: Black History Month Storytelling at NAAM with Eva Abram
Thursday, February 2, 12 – 1:00 p.m.
2300 S Massachusetts Street
Seattle, 98144

Gifted griots—or storytellers—will enchant young and old with tales recounted following oral traditions. Children of all ages are invited to experience the ancient art of storytelling with stories from around the world or just around the corner. This is our first program for Black History Month to kick off February at the Northwest African American Museum! The storytelling will be accompanied by a public docent-led tour for adults, introducing our new exhibit, An Elegant Utility. Open to all ages.

Rosenwald film screening
Presented by Atlantic Street Center
Thursday, February 2, 6 p.m.
104 17th Ave. S.
Seattle, WA 98144

Rosenwald is the incredible story of Julius Rosenwald, who never finished high school, but rose to become the President of Seers. Influenced by the writings of Booker T. Washington, Jewish philanthropist Rosenwald joined forces with African American communities in the Jim Crow South to build 5,300 schools during the early part of the 20th century.  There will be a Q and A session with Philip Rome, Julius Rosenwald’s great-grandson. To RSVP contact Marcella Taylor at (206) 454-3923 or 

Jacob Lawrence: The Migration Series
Seattle Art Museum
Thru April 23, 2017
1300 First Ave.
Seattle, WA 98101

In celebration of the 100th anniversary of the birth of one of this city’s most beloved artists, Jacob Lawrence, the Seattle Art Museum presents Jacob Lawrence: The Migration Series. Acclaimed as Lawrence’s masterwork, this epic series chronicles in words and pictures the exodus of African Americans from the rural South to the industrial North in the decades after the First World War. Tickets and program information can be found at 

I Am Not Your Negro
SIFF Cinema Egyptian
Opens February 3, 2017
USA | 2016 | 95 Minutes | Raoul Peck
Oscar® nominee for Best Documentary.

Panelists are scheduled to be in attendance for a discussion following the 7pm screening on Feb 3. Director Raoul Peck envisions the book James Baldwin never finished – “Remember This House,”  a radical narration about race in America, through the lives and assassinations of three of his friends: Martin Luther King Jr., Medgar Evers and Malcolm X. using only the writer’s original words.

Black History Month Cultural Xpressions
Sundiata African American Cultural Association
Friday, February 10, 6 – 9 p.m.
Art Show and Reception

Saturday and Sunday, February 11 – 12, opening at noon
Live performances
104 17th Ave.
Seattle, WA 98144

Dialogues in Art: Exhibitions on Racial Injustice
Xenobia Bailey artist talk
Paradise Under Reconstruction in the Aesthetic of Funk: A Quantum Leap, Starting From The Top…!!!
Seattle Presents Gallery
Friday, February 10, 5:30 – 7:30 p.m.

Xenobia Bailey has created an immersive installation featuring African-American homemakers and caregivers that honors and celebrates their innovative, soulful lifestyle. The installation references connections to the African-American community and Seattle’s history. These life-sized figures play an important role in cultivating and rebuilding homes and communities, while providing nurturing and guidance for African-American youth.

Dialogues in Art: Exhibitions on Racial Injustice is a yearlong series of exhibitions that explore artists’ and curators’ interpretations of racial injustice and systemic racism impacting Black and African-American people throughout America.

Resonance a celebration of Black American composers
Two performances presented by North Corner Chamber Orchestra
Saturday, February 18, 2 p.m.
New Holly Gathering Hall
7054 32nd Ave. S.
Seattle, WA 98144

Sunday, February 19, 7:30 p.m.
104 17th Ave. S.
Seattle, WA 98144

Tickets are available at and at the door. Group pricing available. $25 general; $15 seniors and ages 19-30. Free for ages 18 and under and music students.


The Creative Advantage 2017 Winter/Spring Learning Series

Join us for the 2017 Winter/Spring series of free Creative Advantage Art Partner trainings. Open to any interested teaching artist, community organizations, arts advocate, teacher, or arts specialist. Workshops offered at no cost to participants. Online registration required and includes three Washington State Clock hours for teachers.

Workshops in this year’s series include:

Saturday, March 4, 2017, 1 – 4 p.m. Northwest African American Museum 21st Century Training

Saturday, March 18, 2017, 1 – 4 p.m. Southside Commons Advocating for Arts and Social Justice

Saturday, April 29, 2017, 1 – 4 p.m. Youngstown Cultural Art Center Teaching and Learning with LBGTQ Youth

Saturday, May 13, 2017, 1 – 4 p.m. Langston Hughes Performing Arts Institute Arts and ELL

The Creative Advantage invests in artists and educators thru ongoing professional learning opportunities that deepen qualities of practice and foster community. This includes an annual Learning Series and Summer Arts Partner Institute.  Emerging to established teaching artists, teachers, administrators, and youth development workers are invited to participate in these trainings presented in partnership with Seattle Art Museum.


Photo: Robert Wade