Friday, March 4, 2011

Seattle: SAM, Pike Place, & Pioneer Square

Pike Place Market
City Fish Market
Seattle is a walking city and every corner and neighbor-hood has
something to offer its visitors.  Whether it be a museum, gallery, or marketplace, Seattle is simply an artsy place.  Walk into Pike Place Market and colors are bountiful.  Each row of fruit and vegetables have been placed just so to lure passerbyers.  Fish are expertly  tossed and juxtaposed on ice; musicians serenade the crowds as they pass through the space.  Cross the street from Pike Place and one has an array of ethnic food stalls from which to choose a tasty good to accompany a cup of coffee from the original Starbucks.    Once the senses are stimulated and stomach is satisfied, stroll a block south to SAM, Seattle Art Museum,  for more visual delights.

SAM, a 150,000 square foot contemporary facility on the west side of Seattle, opened in late 1991 as part of the downtown revitalization.  The realization of the museum is directly associated with the initial vision and art collection donation of Dr. Richard Fuller who created Seattle's first museum in Volunteer Park, which today is Seattle's Asian Art Museum.  A purchased ticket provides entrance to both SAM  and the Asian Art Museum.   In a recent effort to continue  preserving  and enhancing the arts in the community,  SAM partnered with  the land conservation organization and opened, in 2007,  Seattle's Olypmic Sculpture Garden which is freely opened to all who visit it.
On the first Thursday of each month, Seattle's art venues,  including the SAM, are free to the public in celebration of the First Thursday Art Walk.   Given today is the first Thursday,  A. Paul & I took full advantage  of the free day  of art, starting at the SAM.

As soon as we entered the museum, we were captured by the installation of several laser-riddened cars hanging from the ceiling.  An escalator ride up to the third level and we were immersed in several galleries of modern & contemporary arts, as well as an extensive collection of Native Art of the Americas.  The fourth level, again accessed by an escalator, brought us to African,  European & special exhibits.  Though the European collections were small they were diverse and offered support of most of the major early art movements. The African arts collections were impressive as were the special exhibits.  Images of several pieces of the SAM collections are shown in the slideshow below

L-R: Kerry, Amanda & Marge
On our way out, we had the great pleasure of meeting 91 year old Marge Weismsman, who was a docent at Fuller's original museum and has lived in Seattle all her life and Amanda Theel, a student of Seattle Pacific University who is studying art history.   Both were gracious and enthusiastic about the arts and our trip to their city and museum. Thank you to both of you; we very much enjoyed meeting you.  

A few blocks south of SAM and we were in the heart of Pioneer Square, historic downtown Seattle.
Pioneer Square    It is here where many of Seattle's galleries and art studios were preparing for First Thursday Art Walk.   For those who have never visited Seattle,  Pioneer Square was Seattle's city center which burned down in the Great Fire of 1889.  The buildings seen today were erected soon after the fire and built upon the ruins of the old city leaving a maze of subterranean passages and shops below ground level.  Here one can find art studios, galleries, bookshops and the likes. 

After visiting several of the galleries on the street level, we headed underground to see what was brewing in the underground art venues.  Unfortunately, where we were, there was an issue of flood water in the shops so most of the studios & galleries were closed to us.  However, the experience of walking the mazes were undeniably intriguing.

Artist at Glasshouse Studio
Back on the street level, we dropped into the Glasshouse Studio and watched the glassblowers at work.  Sadly, we noticed several empty storefronts and one gallery owner confirmed that many of the existing galleries in the area were holding on by a thread.  As we departed Pioneer Square, the rain came down with a fury so we made our way back to the hotel via several shops to wait it out.  The rain subsided just long enough for us to grab a bite for dinner at the Palace Restaurant and take in the lights of the night sky.

Tomorrow, we head to Fremont District  and hopefully to Bellevue, east of Seattle, to check out the art scenes.  In the evening we plan to take in a bit of Seattle's performing arts at Dimitriou's Jazz Alley  before leaving Seattle on Saturday morning for a two day drive to Sun Valley, Idaho. 


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