Dubbed “The Evergreen State” for its abundant, enduring forests, Washington State is also packed full of great museums hosting a regular programme of permanent and temporary exhibitions.
Located in the Pacific Northwest region of the western United States, Washington State was named after George Washington – the nation’s first president. But its far more than just a distinguished moniker that has driven its fame, with the state also boasting an effervescent cultural and creative scene, evidenced in its many museums. We’ve picked out 12 of the best museum exhibitions taking place across Washington State this fall.
As Grandmother Taught: Women, Tradition, and Plateau Art
Though traditional ways of life have evolved, women of the Northwest continue to carry forward the skills and knowledge of an ancient, bygone era. Harking back to a time when the indigenous people of the Columbia River had an interdependent relationship with the natural world, this exhibition celebrates the work of three contemporary women whose ancestry can be traced back to the so-called Plateau Indians of the region, alongside historic objects and images.
Washington State History Museum, Tacoma / Through 28 Nov 2021
Don your costumes and check out Boo Bash at the Hands On Children’s Museum this October. Boo Bash offers family-friendly fun and Halloween-inspired activities without the fright. Make enchanted charms and potions, explore a black light cavern, press apples into cider, navigate a straw bale maze, see Dr. Science Demos, silkscreen a treat bag, go on a scavenger hunt, and more at Hands On, the premier children’s museum in the Pacific Northwest. While you’re here explore 150 interactive exhibits and a half-acre outdoor play space where kids can sluice for treasure, captain a vintage schooner, and climb a giant boulder.
Hands On Children’s Museum, Olympia / 22-31 Oct 2021
What Are You Looking At? An Eccentric Chorus of Artists Working in Glass
The delicate art of glass-blowing continues to be indelibly linked with the Pacific Northwest region. Jointly curated by Benjamin Cobb, Hot Shop Director at the Museum of Glass (MOG), and Benjamin Wright, Artistic Director at Pilchuck Glass School, this exhibition has been created to coincide with significant milestone anniversaries for both organisations. Presenting unique experiments and prototypes by a diverse group of artists, designers, and crafts people, it looks at work created by a diverse group of artists, designers, and crafts people who have had the opportunity to experiment in glass at both Pilchuck and MOG through an ongoing joint residency program.
Museum of Glass, Tacoma / 26 Sept 2021 – Fall 2022
Peninsula Art League Open Juried Show
After a temporary hiatus, Peninsula Art League Open Juried Show is back at the Harbor History Museum in 2021, featuring eye-catching entries from all over the United States. Spanning a diverse assortment of paintings, photography, and sculptures, the unique blend of artworks on display will be juried by acclaimed pastel artist Jennifer Evenhus who will also offer a special workshop in conjunction with the show, offering visitors the chance to learn how to create the luscious, velvety textures and deep, rich colours that characterise pastel art.
Harbor History Museum / 8 Oct – 27 Nov 2021
Da Vinci – Inventions
Italian polymath Leonardo Da Vinci’s body of work is as varied as it is timeless and continues to be celebrated across the world. The true breadth and depth of his work is incredible and spans multiple creative genres including painting, engineering science, sculpture and architecture. Produced by Grande Experiences, creators of multi-sensory art and cultural installations, this child-friendly exhibition brings to life the genius of Di Vinci, featuring carefully crafted interactive and life-size machine inventions of his work, and offering visitors a fascinating insight into the creative processes of the ultimate Renaissance man, who laid the groundwork for some of the modern world’s most impactful inventions, such as the helicopter, airplane, automobile, submarine, parachute, and bicycle.
Seattle’s Museum of History & Industry, Seattle / Through 3 Jan 2022
The Red Chador: Genesis I. Anida Yoeu Ali
Cambodia-born artist Anida Yoeu Ali’s installation and performance work investigate the artistic, spiritual and political collisions of a hybrid transnational identity. In particular, her recent works confront modern representations of Muslim women in an era of heightened religious tension. This exhibition series continues the artist’s thematic use of religious aesthetics through sculptures, video projections and photographs that depict her entering public places in cities around the world cloaked in a red sequin chador, or “Muslim” headdress, as a way of challenging the public’s perception and fears of the “other”.
Western Washington University, Bellingham / 7 Oct – 20 Nov 2021
Monet at Etretat
During the 1880s tensions in the life of the French painter Monet, including increasing financial pressure to produce marketable work, took him to the seaside town of Étretat on the Normandy Coast, well known as a destination for tourists and artists. This period of artistic frustration and self-doubt turned out to be fruitful in a way he couldn’t imagine at the time. In 10 paintings created by Monet and 12 works by other artists of his era, this exhibition sheds light on an oft-overlooked period of growth in Monet’s life that helped create the myth of the man.
Seattle Art Museum, Seattle / Through 17 Oct 2021
What We Make: Nature As Inspiration
Delve into the innate relationship between makers and nature at this exhibition which celebrates the unique compulsion of humans to create. Discover how landscapes inspire art-making through the works of Northwest artists Wesley Wehr and Joseph Goldberg; learn about natural motifs and the importance of beaded bags in the region’s Plateau indigenous cultures; investigate the use of natural materials in millinery and its many different forms; and find out about the story of a blacksmith who flew the first plane in the Inland Northwest, illustrating our obsession with flight down the ages.
Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture, Spokane / Through 9 Jan 2022
Cruisin’ Around Washington
This bite-sized but dazzlingly vibrant exhibition takes visitors on an enchanting tour around Washington State as fossils come to life through the imaginative art of renowned scientific surrealist Ray Troll. Peculiar-looking fish, gigantic fearsome salmon, and one very unlucky rhino all make an appearance. Utilising brand new art, as well as time-honoured favorites, the exhibition offer a compact extension of Troll’s work complete with specimens from existing Burke Museum collections.
Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture, Seattle / Through 10 Oct 2021
Showcasing the work of Audrey Desjardins, Assistant Professor of Interaction Design at the University of Washington, this exhibition presents a series of poetic interactions with domestic data. Comprising five individual projects, it explores familiar encounters between humans and things, with a focus on how we engage with data in the context of our homes, encouraging visitors to consider the hidden entities, infrastructure, and labor that lies behind so much of the data that we use and rely upon in our daily lives.
Jacob Lawrence Gallery, University of Washington, Seattle / 21 Sept – 9 Oct 2021
All Dressed Up
Among the lesser known possessions of the Whatcom Museum is its incredible clothing collection that includes examples of historic garments spanning from the 1800s through the mid-20th century. This exhibition highlights some of the more colourful examples of artistry as fashion in the collection, showcasing items of clothing that would have been worn “out on the town,” such as a stunning blue striped silk dress with off-white satin banding from the 1910s and a dramatic 1928 lavender full-length chiffon gown worn.
Whatcom Museum, Bellingham / Through 31 Oct 2021
Stories Shaped in Bronze
Accomplished Pacific Northwest sculptor Gerard Tsutakawa has become a prolific figure within Seattle’s arts scene, with a number of his works dotted in public spaces around the city. This exhibition invites visitors to learn more about the inspiration, design, and fabrication process behind his sculptures, as well as their effect on Seattle physically, socially and culturally. Accompanying the exhibition is a self-guided interactive walking tour that invites you to check out his public works at your leisure.
Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience, Seattle / Through 17 Apr 2022