Tacoma Art Museum
Founded in 1935, The Tacoma Art Museum is located in Tacoma, Washington, a city of over 200,000 residents. The museum features art from artists in the Northwest and broader regions of the western United States. It “serves the diverse communities of the Northwest through its collection, exhibitions, and learning programs” (1). Additionally, live performances and nationally touring shows are hosted here regularly for the viewing pleasure of tourists and locals alike. Styles emphasized in the museum’s many pieces of work on display include Dale Chihuly glass works, Japanese prints, and European Impressionism, along with American art.
Backstory and Context
Northwest Art is defined as art created by artists who are native to, practiced/taught, or are connected to the states of Washington, Oregon, Montana, British Columbia, Idaho, and Alaska. The museum’s collections consist of studio art glass, studio art jewelry, prints, photographs, and more. The American Art Collection involves any and all art made by people from the regions enclosed by the United States, with a focus on the geographical Pacific Northwest (includes the Haub Family Collection And Early American Modernism). The Japanese Woodblock Prints of the genre ukiyo-e were created from the 17th to the 19th century and entail motifs of landscapes, city life, and the theater. Lastly, the European Art consists of the creations of artists from Western and Eastern European countries. Along with the Japanese Woodblock Prints, the European Art creates an element of variety in the perspectives and experiences of the artists that can be seen in their works (1). As the most important and emphasized styles on display, these four types of historic collections make up most of the esteemed art offered at the museum.
The Tacoma Art Museum’s primary mission is to connect people through art. “By creating a dynamic museum that engages inspires, and builds community through art” (1), the museum sought to act as a national role model for future regional and local museums. Additionally, a goal was laid out to amass the largest and most prestigious collection of Northwest art specifically, and to be a central figure in the historical preservation of the area’s visual arts. As such, the collections feature over 4,500 works, with some of the most famous parts of the collection including the Haub Family Collection (300 pieces of work stretching over two centuries), and the biggest collection of studio art jewelry by artists of the Northwest, etc.
An important section of the museum architectural design and land area is the popular main plaza that surrounds the main building. “Tacoma Art Museum anchors the gateway into the city’s downtown area, but its site is framed by an interstate highway, a busy street, and an industrial water inlet” (2). Initially, the plaza was unsightly and mostly deserted, receiving little public use. The museum officials and the city of Tacoma envisioned a more appealing and user-friendly entrance into the city where pedestrians would simultaneously be more encouraged to travel to the city, gatherings and performances could be supported, and stormwater runoff could be handled more effectively. Consequently, they teamed up to make changes and provide funds with the help of private donors to transform the plaza into a proper gateway to the main city district. New areas were made for public gatherings and creative art activity, in addition to combining art and the permeable urban surfaces to alleviate heavy water runoff. Completed recently in 2014, outdoor exhibitions, gatherings, and performances are now available to visitors of the Tacoma Art Museum where they previously were not, enhancing the overall experience (2).
1. “History and Vision.” Tacoma Art Museum. Accessed December 11, 2017. www.tacomaartmuseum.org/about-us/history-vision.
2. “National Endowment for the Arts.” Tacoma Art Museum Plaza | Exploring Our Town. Accessed December 11, 2017. www.arts.gov/exploring-our-town/tacoma-art-museum-plaza.
Photo: Tacoma Art Museum