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About SAM

Three must-see locations

In the heart of downtown Seattle, light-filled galleries invite contemplation of our collections and exhibitions from around the world. In historic Volunteer Park, our Art Deco building offers tranquil environments for exploring ​our renowned collection of Asian art. On Seattle’s stunning waterfront, this award-winning park provides a breathtaking setting for outdoor sculpture and art activities.

A mission to connect

SAM connects art to life

Through art, the Seattle Art Museum fosters creativity and builds community.
As a leading visual art institution with three distinct locations, SAM shares its global collections, powerful exhibitions, and dynamic programs to engage, educate, and inspire.

Founded in 1933, SAM celebrates the region's position as a crossroads where east meets west, urban meets natural, and local meets global. Our collections, exhibitions, and programs feature art from around the world and build bridges between cultures and centuries. ​

The Seattle Art Museum acknowledges that we are located on the ancestral land of the Coast Salish people.

view SAM’s strategic plan
two women look at art in a white walled gallery

A collective commitment to equity

In 2017, the museum’s Equity Team and leadership integrated an equity statement of the museum’s official values into SAM’s strategic plan, which guides all we do. Racial equity work has been a focus at SAM since the mid-1990s, with increasingly more staff dedicated to creating structural change at the museum over time.


One museum. Three distinct locations.

Pedestrians are crossing a downtown street on their way to visit Seattle Art Museum.

Seattle Art Museum

1300 First Avenue, Seattle, WA 98101

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Sunset reflecting off the art-deco facade of the Seattle Asian Art Museum.

Seattle Asian Art Museum

1400 East Prospect Street, Seattle, WA 98112

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Aerial view of Olympic Sculpture Park with Calder's "Eagle" and Serra's "Wake" in the foreground of Seattle's waterfront.

Olympic Sculpture Park

2901 Western Avenue,​ Seattle, WA 98121

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Do what you love

Career opportunities at the Seattle Art Museum offer enrichment and support our mission.

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History

Explore how the Seattle Art Museum evolved into a vital Seattle institution and a dynamic museum with three distinct venues.

1906

The Seattle Fine Art Society, the parent institution of the Seattle Art Museum (SAM), is founded.

1929

The Fine Art Society is renamed the Art Institute of Seattle under the presidency of Carl F. Gould, an architecture professor at the University of Washington. The Institute continues searching for a permanent facility while staging exhibitions at various venues.

​​1931

The president of the Art Institute of Seattle, Dr. Richard E. Fuller, and his mother, Mrs. Margaret E. MacTavish Fuller, offer the City of Seattle $250,000 for a museum building. The city agrees to service and maintain the building if the Fullers and the museum accept responsibility for its construction, operation, and collection. Construction begins on an Art Deco structure, designed by Carl F. Gould of Bebb and Gould in Capitol Hill’s Volunteer Park.

1933

The Seattle Art Museum (formerly the Art Institute of Seattle) opens its doors to the public on June 29, and attendance during the first day of operations surpasses 33,000. In its first year the museum hosts 346,287 visitors; the city’s entire population is around 365,000. The art on display includes the Fullers’ collection of Asian art, highlighted by Chinese jades and ceramics, complemented by examples of Japanese, Korean, and Indian art, as well as changing exhibitions of living Northwest artists.

1948

Asian art scholar Sherman E. Lee arrives to serve as assistant director, bringing treasured works of Japanese art to SAM and helping ​acquire the Samuel H. Kress Collection of European paintings for the museum during his tenure.

1962

The Seattle World’s Fair, held at Seattle Center, brings a heightened artistic awareness to Seattle and a greater appetite for modern art, paving the way for more diverse displays of art at SAM.

1965

On June 6, the museum officially opens the Seattle Art Museum Pavilion at the Seattle Center as an active venue for modern art and other changing exhibitions. The inaugural exhibition is The Responsive Eye, an Op Art exhibition assembled by William Seitz of the Museum of Modern Art and sponsored by SAM’s Contemporary Art Council.

1969

The National Council on the Arts (later the NEA), the Seattle Foundation (which Dr. Fuller helped to found), the City of Seattle, and Dr. Fuller finance the acquisition and installation o​f Isamu Noguchi’s Black Sun in front of the Seattle Art Museum in Volunteer Park. It is the NEA’s first commission in Seattle.

1975-1976

Exhibition activity at the Seattle Art Museum Pavilion ramps up after the founding of the modern art curatorial department in 1975.

1978

Treasures of Tutankhamun, shown at the Flag Pavilion at Seattle Center, forever alters the museum’s profile, increasing staff and placing new emphases on exhibitions and publications. The six-month show attracts nearly 1.3 million visitors. The exhibition’s popularity and financial success fuel the plans and preparations for a permanent downtown facility.

1981

The SAM collection expands with an unexpected gift of African art from collector Katherine C. White and through the support of the Boeing Company, an extraordinary combination of private philanthropy and corporate support.

1990

Jonathan Borofsky’s 48-foot-tall Hammering Man is commissioned by the City of Seattle with the support of the Seattle Art Commission’s 1% for Art program, the Virginia Wright Fund, and the Seattle-based group PONCHO—Patrons of Northwest Civic, Cultural, and Charitable Organizations. Though officially part of the City of Seattle’s art collection, Borofsky’s large-scale sculpture is positioned at the entryway to the new Seattle Art Museum and quickly becomes a symbol of the museum.

1991

The new building downtown, designed by Robert Venturi, opens its doors on December 5 and hosts over 10,000 visitors on the first day. John H. Hauberg donates his celebrated collection of Northwest Native art, forming the foundation of the museum’s holdings in Native American art. The Volunteer Park building closes for renovations.

1994

The rededicated Seattle Asian Art Museum opens on August 13 with a day of festivities that includes tours, folk art workshops, and performances by local dance and music groups, bringing more than 6,000 visitors to the museum. The new space allotted for Asian art allows for many more of the approximately 6,000 Asian art objects to go on display.

1999

SAM, in partnership with the Trust for Public Land, raises $17 million for the purchase of future sculpture park property on Seattle’s waterfront. Jon and Mary Shirley endow the park with a $20 million gift that will allow the park to be free to the public; they name the park the Olympic Sculpture Park. This is also the beginning of a capital c​ampaign that will eventually raise $22​0 million with more than 10,000 gifts—the largest cultural fundraising campaign in the history of the city of Seattle.

2000

Marion Weiss and Michael Manfredi of Weiss/Manfredi Architects are selected as lead designers for the Olympic Sculpture Park. Jon and Mary Shirley donate Alexander Calder’s The Eagle (1971), a landmark art acquisition for the future Olympic Sculpture Park. Until the sculpture park is finished, The Eagle rests in front of the Seattle Asian Art Museum.

2007

The Olympic Sculpture Park opens in January as downtown Seattle’s largest green space, highlighted by stunning works of modern and contemporary art. The opening of the new Seattle Art Museum in 2007 unveils a striking expansion designed by Brad Cloepfil of Allied Works Architecture, doubling the museum’s public and exhibition space. The reopening in May welcomes more than 32,000 people during a 35-hour marathon opening weekend.

2008

SAM celebrates its 75th anniversary with an ambitious art acquisition initiative. The results: over 1,000 gifts (full, partial, or pledged) from more than seventy donors bring the​ collection to nearly 24,000 objects.

2014

SAM acquires 85 works from the Virginia and Bagley Wright Collection that together raise the profile of the museum’s modern and contemporary art collection to an unprecedented level. Echo, a dramatic 46-foot-tall sculpture by Spanish artist Jaume Plensa donated by Barney A. Ebsworth, transforms the shoreline of the Olympic Sculpture Park.

2017

SAM celebrates the 10th anniversary of the Olympic Sculpture Park and the downtown expansion. The Seattle Asian Art Museum closes for renovation and expansion.

2018

SAM breaks ground on the renovation and expansion of the Seattle Asian Art Museum’s historic building.

2020

The newly renovated and expanded Seattle Asian Art Museum opens to the public on February 8.


SAM Stories

SAM’s history is linked to the region and the world. Read, watch, and listen to learn more about the museum.

Leadership

SAM Staff

Jeff Draeger

Interim Illsley Ball Nordstrom 
Director and CEO​​

Cindy Bolton

Chief Financial Officer

Nicholas Dorman

Jane Lang Davis
Chief Conservator

Jose Carlos Diaz

Susan Brotman Deputy Director for Art

Anita Shah

Interim Chief Operating Officer

Priya Frank

Director of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion

Chris Landman

Chief Development Officer

Regina Ford

Director of Human Resources

Mikhael Mei Williams

Chief Marketing Officer

Nate Peek

Interim Director of Museum Services and Chief Exhibition Designer

Viviana Pitta

Legal Counsel​​

Jason Porter

Kayla Skinner Deputy Director for Education & Public Engagement

2023–2024 SAM Board of Trustees

As the governing body of SAM, the board, in consultation with SAM's director and senior staff, determines the museum's strategic direction and oversight. The board's Executive Committee meets monthly, while the full board convenes six times a year.

Officers
Catherine Roche, President; Constance Rice, Chair; Carla Lewis, Past President; Stewart Landefeld, Past Chair; Susan Brotman, Vice President; Jon Shirley, Vice President; Winnie Stratton, Vice President; Doug True, Vice President; Charles Wright, Vice President; Bert Valdman, Treasurer; Maggie Walker, Secretary

Active
Margaret Allison, Ryan Arai, Cherry A. Banks, Watson Blair, Bruce Blume, Susan Brotman, Cliff Burrows, Lisa Caputo, Michael Conway, Michael Corliss, Marc Cosentino, Juli Farris, John Frank, Lisa Goodman, Mari Horita, Felix Huang, Falona Joy, Robert Kaplan, Beth Ketcham, Janet Ketcham, Sylvia Ketcham, SoYoung Kwon, Najma Lalji, Stewart Landefeld, Carla Lewis, Flora Ling, Gary Locke, Barbara Malone, Maren Monsen, Scott Morris, Charles Nolan, Linda Nordstrom, Sally Nordstrom, Michael Parham, Hwa Park, Sanjay Parthasarathy, Eduardo Peñalver, Steve Phelps, Mala Raman, Constance Rice, Yucca Rieschel, Catherine Roche, Lee Rolfe, Faye Sarkowsky, Stan Savage, Laura Selipsky, Roberta Sherman, Jon Shirley, Kim Richter Shirley, Mary Snapp, Denise Stiffarm, Winnie Stratton, Robert Strong, Ina Tateuchi, Lynn Thomsen, Andrea Thoreson, Doug True, Bert Valdman, Brandon Vaughan, Mandira Virmani, Huong Vu, Lisa Wahbe, Maggie Walker, Brian Wineke, Charles Wright

Ex-Officio
Martha Draves, Marcia Cecil

Honorary

Eve Alvord, James Hawkanson, Sally Maryatt, Doug Norberg, James Olson, Suzanne Ragen, Charles Simonyi, Jairus Stratton, Curtis Wong, Ann Wyckoff

Commitments

Thank you to the organizations, companies, and individuals who have made the ongoing expansion of Seattle Art Museum possible.

Seattle Art Museum
Brad Cloepfil of Allied Works Architecture
Venturi, Scott Brown & Associates
City of Seattle
The National Council on the Arts (later the NEA)
Seattle Foundation
Boeing Company

Seattle Asian Art Museum
Carl F. Gould of Bebb and Gould
BNBuilders
LMN Architects
OAC
Seattle Parks & Recreation
Walker Macy

Olympic Sculpture Park
The Trust for Public Land (TPL)
City of Seattle
King County
Museum Development Authority
Department of Parks and Recreation
Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife
Puget Sound Nearshore Partnership
Estuary and Salmon Restoration Program
Seattle Public Utilities
King Conservation District
Wetland Ecosystem Team at the University of Washington
WEISS/MANFREDI
Magnusson Klemencic Associates
Charles Anderson Landscape Architecture
ABACUS Engineered Systems
Brandston Partnership Inc.
Hart Crowser
Aspect Consulting
Anchor Environmental
Pentagram
ARUP
Bon Appetit
JLR
Doyle + Associates
Owens Richards Architects, pllc

SAM integrates many of the latest environmentally responsible building materials, systems, and management practices as part of its ongoing commitment to protect our environment. SAM supports a healthy and sustainable green space by:

  • Operating the Olympic Sculpture Park to meet Salmon-Safe standards for land management.
  • Organizing volunteer work groups to perform regular beach cleanups.
  • Conserving resources in administrative practices (electrical, water, printing, and recycling).
  • Practicing pesticide-free grounds maintenance and using green cleaning products.
  • Providing compost and recycling receptacles for visitors.
  • Utilizing a Maxicom irrigation system for efficient water use.
  • Encouraging public transportation, biking, and carpooling by staff and visitors.
  • Hosting innovative programs that explore the relationship between art and the environment.
  • Partnering with the Seattle Aquarium to host beach naturalists on the beach during low tides.​​​​

The Seattle Art Museum is committed to financial transparency by making its annual audited statements, Form 990, and Form 990-T available to the public. Audited statements for the Museum Development Authority, a public authority organized to support the museum, are also available. Please note that these documents report the museum’s financial information on a consolidated basis by including non-operating activity as well as the activity which directly supports the daily operations of a public art museum. Additionally as required by the IRS, Form 990 excludes certain financial information such as unrealized gains or losses, bad debt, and in-kind gifts of services. If you should have any questions or require further information, please contact the Seattle Art Museum’s Finance department.

four people and one person in a camel suit posing for a camera

What’s on

Seattle Art Museum

Remember the Rain

Aug 18 2023–Oct 28 2024
Olympic Sculpture Park

Echo

May 29 2014–ongoing