Explore Seattle

State of the Art

Digging into Seattle's art scene.

Multifaceted. It's the first word that comes to mind when thinking about Seattle's art scene. There are art museums, the glass scene and public art around every corner. But there are also the art galleries. Some have been around since the 1970s, others are much younger, but they all add to the vibrancy of this city. And with more artist collectives—work spaces with affordable rent—opening, the diversity of art is growing.

The Tashiro Kaplan Lofts (115 Prefontaine Place S) in Pioneer Square are one such spot, a building that houses artists of all kinds, with art galleries at street level. SOIL (112 Third Ave. S), an artist collective and nonprofit gallery established in 1995, is one of those galleries. Christopher Buening, a mixed-media artist, is one of their members. “I didn’t have a good connection to the arts community before I became a member of SOIL,” he said. “It gave me tentacles into the art world in Seattle.”

Nola Avienne. Hackles. 2009
Nola Avienne, "Hackles," 2009. Steel, magnets and iron fillings. (Courtesy Nola Avienne)

This month, their larger gallery’s exhibit is “Material in Mind: Women and Steel,” an all-female show of eight sculptors using the material in different ways. “We jury in shows by group decision, and we put out annual calls,” said Buening. “We see a lot of the nice stuff that’s going on—really current, underground stuff.”

The TK Lofts are home to more than 10 galleries. And because they’re located in Pioneer Square, there is a host of other galleries to visit. Check out long-time favorites Greg Kucera Gallery (212 Third Ave. S) and Foster/White Gallery (220 Third Ave. S) or, for a fantastic collection of Pacific Northwest Native American art, Stonington Gallery (125 S. Jackson St.). On the first Thursday of the month, Pioneer Square holds their monthly art walk—a must-do for any art lover.

If your explorations take you to the north end of the city, SPACE, the Sand Point Arts and Cultural Exchange, recently opened their artist workspaces and art gallery, the Magnuson Park Gallery. It has been 20 years in the making, said Julianna Ross, Executive Director of SPACE. Located at Warren G. Magnuson Park (7400 Sand Point Way NE), a former Navy base, their building—Building 30—like most, needed seismic and other improvements before artists call it their own. “This whole thing was unoccupied since 1994,” Ross said.

SPACE open studios event
SPACE (Courtesy Julianna Ross)

Now, around 30 artists work here, and the gallery lineup is eclectic, including an exhibit of art held by the city this month. “We get to liberate some of the downtown collection that the City of Seattle owns and bring it out here,” Ross said. They’re also planning a grand opening party and open studios event this month—check their website for dates.

Ross, active in the art scene since 1989, has watched it grow through the years. “It’s so much bigger, and it’s so much more diverse [in mediums and price points],” she said. “There are amazing people doing creative things in all corners of the city.” Including her corner: Magnuson Park and the adjacent NOAA land have a variety of outdoor sculptures, making it a great place to spend a day.

For visitors looking for an art, Ross said, “Just have fun! Poke around. You’re going to see some great art. Take some home with you, too.”