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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Seattle Asian Art Museum Community Meeting on March 1

You are invited to attend a community meeting to learn more about the construction process and timeline for the renovation and expansion of the Seattle Asian Art Museum.

The $54 million project will preserve the building’s original Art Deco façade, improve the museum’s infrastructure, protect the collection with climate control and seismic system upgrades, add vital gallery and education space, enhance ADA accessibility, and enhance the connection between the museum and Volunteer Park.

Work begins February/March 2018 and will continue for 14–15 months. The anticipated reopening of the museum is fall 2019.

Thursday, March 1, 7-8 p.m.
Miller Community Center
330 19th Ave. E
Seattle, WA 98112

For more information please visit

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Community input needed for renovation and proposed expansion of the Seattle Asian Art Museum

On Sat., Dec. 10, 2016 from 1 to 2:30 p.m. the community is invited to attend a meeting about the renovation and proposed expansion of the Seattle Asian Art Museum. The meeting will be held at the Seattle Asian Art Museum, 1400 E Prospect St. in Volunteer Park. It is an opportunity to learn more about and provide input on the preservation, infrastructure improvements and proposed expansion plans for the Asian Art Museum.

The renovation and expansion goals include preserving the historic building; improving the museum’s infrastructure; protecting the collection with climate control and seismic system upgrades; adding gallery and education space with an expansion into the east side of Volunteer Park; and enhancing ADA accessibility and the museum’s connection to the park.

Renovation and proposed expansion plans are in progress and your input will help implement changes that will best serve the Asian Art Museum and park visitors. Depending on the design evolution, permitting and other processes, the current estimated timeline is to start construction in September 2017. Construction is anticipated to last one year, followed by another six months to move art back into the building.

To learn more about the project and to provide feedback, please visit For additional information visit

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May is Asian Pacific American History Month

Seattle is the perfect place to celebrate Asian Pacific American History Month. Asian Pacific Americans have played significant roles in Seattle’s history and there is a thriving community with lots to explore including public art, museums, the Chinatown/International District and everything in between.

Lunch + Learn
Friday, May 13 | 12-1 p.m.
Bertha Knight Landes Room at City Hall 600 4th Ave, Seattle, WA 98104
Please join us for a special Lunch + Learn, celebrating Asian Pacific American History Month. Artists Akio Takamori, Diem Chau, and Humaira Abid will present their work and how it reflects their cultural heritage. Curated by Ruri Yampolsky, Public Art Program Director, Seattle Office of Arts & Culture. Please bring your lunch; beverages and food for thought will be provided.

Places to explore:

Chinatown/International District
Seattle’s Chinatown/International District is located southeast of Pioneer Square. The historic district built largely between 1909 and 1929 is listed in the National Historic Register of Historic Places. It is home to vibrant storefronts, restaurants, produce markets, and museums.

Parks to explore:

Hing Hay Park
423 Maynard Ave S, Seattle, WA 98104
Hing Hay Park “Park for Pleasurable Gatherings” is the International District’s primary public square and features an ornate grand pavilion that was a gift from the people of Taipei.

Kubota Garden
9817 55th Ave S, Seattle, WA 98118
The Kubota Garden is a stunning 20 acre landscape blending Japanese garden concepts with native Northwest plants. It was created by Japanese American Fujitaro Kubota in 1927.

Seattle Japanese Garden, Arboretum
1075 Lake Washington Blvd E, Seattle, WA 98112
Located within the Washington Park Arboretum, this is a spectacular 3 1/2 acre formal garden designed and constructed under the supervision of world-renowned Japanese garden designer Juki Iida in 1960.

Cultural Organizations:

The Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience
719 South King Street, Seattle, WA 98104
Founded in 1966, the museum was named after Wing Luke (1925-1965), the first Asian American to hold public office in the Pacific Northwest.  The Wing explores the culture, art and history of the pan-Asian Pacific American experience and is the first Smithsonian affiliate in the Pacific Northwest as well as an Affiliated Area of the National Park Service. Their mission is to connect everyone to the rich history, dynamic cultures and art of the Asian Pacific Americans through vivid storytelling and inspiring experiences.

Seattle Asian Art Museum
1400 E Prospect St, Seattle, 98112
The Seattle Asian Art Museum resides in a 1933 Art Deco building in the Olmstead-designed Volunteer Park. Their collection of Asian art includes historic and contemporary Chinese, Japanese, Indian, Korean, Southeast Asian, Himalayan, Filipino, and Vietnamese art.

Burke Museum
4331 Memorial Way NE, Seattle, WA 98195
The Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture, founded in 1885 is a research and collections based museum dedicated to cultural heritage and biodiversity. The museum’s long term exhibition Pacific Voices features the arts, ceremonies and stories of Asian and Asian American cultures and communities around the Pacific Rim.

Densho is a digital, public history organization. They work to preserve and share stories of Japanese Americans who were unjustly incarcerated during World War II by recording firsthand accounts, digitizing historical images and documents, and developing classroom resources. Densho’s work is nationally acclaimed with awards from the American Library Association, Society of American Archivists, Seattle Mayor’s Arts Award and the Oral History Association.

5th Avenue Theatre
1308 5th Ave, Seattle, WA 98101
Opened in 1926, the interior of the 5th Avenue Theatre incorporates design motifs from Imperial China’s Forbidden City, Temple of Heavenly Peace, and Summer Palace.


*Information included from the Visit Seattle’s Cultural Guide