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Gardner Center

The Gardner Center for Asian Art and Ideas

Gardner Center events explore the vast diversity of Asia and its presence in the world. From history and culture to global development and urban design, we exchange ideas that include dialogue on challenging contemporary issues. We also invite you to experience a range of artistic expression related to Asia.

Founded in 2009 by Mimi Gardner Gates, the Gardner Center is currently overseen by SAM’s Asian art curatorial team in collaboration with colleagues in the museum’s Education & Public Engagement department. This ongoing program shares a variety of perspectives and builds on our region’s longstanding ties with Asia.

The Gardner Center has long-term partnerships with the Jackson School of International Studies at the University of Washington and the Elliott Bay Book Company.

Learn more about today's Seattle Asian Art Museum.

Gardner Center



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Visit SAM’s calendar for a detailed schedule of Gardner Center programs.


Asia Talks

Writers, artists, community members, non-profit leaders and others engaged with Asia share their ideas, work, and experiences. Talks are dedicated to encounters across cultures—within Asia, between Asia and the rest of the world, and within the museum.

Taking inspiration from the thematic reinstallation of the Asian art collection at the newly renovation Seattle Asian Art Museum, the Asia Talks program supports new views on the vast diversity of Asia and arts of Asia’s past and present. Think beyond current national borders as we consider places and people within Asia and its diasporas in talks ranging from authors producing great writing from and about Asia, to local women from South Asia discussing family jewelry traditions, to a daylong session on a single Asian art form.

    Saturday University Lecture Series

    Delve into new themes every season with a different speaker each week. Challenging, thought-provoking, and sometimes surprising, this long-running and always popular lecture series incorporates audience discussion as experts from around the world join us to share their insights on Asia throughout time.

    Expanded my world view tremendously.

    –Series Subscriber

    Image of textile detail

    Encountering Asia: Plunderers and Collectors

    The upcoming series will take place monthly, September 11, 2021 through June 11, 2022. Through ten lectures we'll discuss recent archaeological discoveries, expeditions and explorations, collecting and repatriation, shipwreck and piracy, and more.

    Presented with the University of Washington’s Jackson School of International Studies and the Elliott Bay Book Company.

    Image: Dr. Richard Fuller, founding director of the Seattle Art Museum, in art storage, 1964. Photo: Paul V. Thomas.



    View past lectures via our video playlist below.


    Asia Films

    Asia Films

    From classics and documentaries to great yet lesser-known contemporary feature films, films of Asia and its diasporas are screened in the Seattle Asian Art Museum auditorium.​​​

      Asia Performs

      photo of the BKO Quintent: five west african men with their native instruments

      Contemporary, traditional, hybrid, international, and local performing artists share their talents at the Seattle Asian Art Museum.

      As part of our ongoing partnership with Tasveer, we host annual spring performances of Yoni Ki Baat, with a new production of performers’ stories in this South Asian women’s version of The Vagina Monologues.

      In summer, our free World Music Series takes place outdoors in Volunteer Park on Friday evenings.

        IMAGES: Photo: Catherine Anstett. Image: The Chion'in Temple Gate (detail), Yoshida Hiroshi (Japanese, 1876–1950), 1935, Woodblock print, 10 3/4 x 16 in., Seattle Art Museum, Eugene Fuller Memorial Collection, 2004.11. Photo: Munem Wasif. Image courtesy of the Dunhuang Academy, photo: Wu Jian. Osaka Elegy (Naniwa erejî), 1936, Directed by Kenji Mizoguchi. Photo: courtesy of Shoji Yamamura. Photo: courtesy of BKO Quintet.

        Seattle Art Museum acknowledges that we are on the traditional homelands of the Duwamish and the customary territories of the Suquamish and Muckleshoot Peoples. As a cultural and educational institution, we honor our ongoing connection to these communities past, present, and future. We also acknowledge the urban Native peoples from many Nations who call Seattle their home.

        Learn more about Equity at SAM