United States

10 Exhibitions to Visit in Washington State this Spring

by Paul Joseph  |  Published March 6, 2024

The heart of the Pacific Northwest, Washington State’s striking natural scenery is accompanied by a large number of urbanised areas where museums host exhibitions throughout the year.

Erik Sandgren (American, b. 1952), Entrance to the Columbia: Aid to Navigation at Cape Disappointment, 2001, watercolor on paper, 15” x 22”

Lush greenery, wild white peaks, wheat fields and fruit-filled orchards characterise the landscapes of Washington State. But it also boasts a rich cultural scene which is most evident in the many museums located in towns and cities across the state. The result is that you’ll never struggle to find an exhibition to visit in Washington State – and this spring is certainly no exception to that rule. Here are 10 of the best set to take place over the coming weeks and months.

The Columbia River: Wallula to the Sea 

Along the 310-mile stretch of the Columbia River between the Wallula Gap and the Pacific Ocean, countless generations of people have depended on the river and the land along its banks for sustenance, recreation, and commerce. And countless artists have captured their impressions of the place, the animals, the people and their stories of life on the river. This exhibition gives visitors the opportunity to reflect on the many facets of the river’s identity and to visually chronicle some of the human behaviours that shape its daily life, both past and present.

Maryhill Museum of Art,  Maryhill / 15 March – 15 November 2024

The Salmon School

Joseph Gregory Rossano. The Salmon School, detail. Blown and mirrored glass. Photo by C.B. Bell. (Photo: Courtesy of the artist and Bellevue Arts Museum, Bellevue, WA.)

Designed to shine a light on the complex issue of sustainability in the world of wild fishing, this eye-catching exhibition features a sculpture consisting of approximately 450 mirrored glass forms, suspended to resemble a school of fish. Created by a global collaboration of artists, scientists, and Indigenous Peoples working toward a common good, its specifically focuses on the diminished state of wild salmon and steelhead populations on the Skagit River. The sculpture’s fragile forms of glass are intended to reflect not only the environment on which the fish depend, but also the viewer’s role, both as part of the problem and also the solution.

Museum of Glass, Tacoma / Through 15 September 2024


One Day, One Step, One Life, 2023. Commercial cotton ombre fabrics. Raw edge applique and machine quilted on a traditional Bernina machine. 43x52x 1/8″(Photo: Courtesy of Barbara Fox)

Journeys of transformation – personal, cultural, historic – are captured in this juried exhibition at the Washington State Historical Society in Tacoma. Featuring fibre works by talented artists from two local groups, the contemporary quilts on display are intended to portray movement, change, and growth as seen through each creator’s eyes. Stitching together narratives and moments, the works invite exploration of stories, from the intimate to the conceptual.

Washington State Historical Society, Tacoma/ 16 March – 23 June 2024

La Vaughn Belle: A History of Unruly Returns

In the mid-17th century, Denmark established a colonial presence in the Caribbean and participated in the transatlantic slave trade until the early 19th century, with around 120,000 people from present-day Ghana brought to the Danish West Indies (now the US Virgin Islands) to plant and harvest sugar cane. Their emancipation occurred in 1848, and in 1917 the islands of Saint Croix, Saint John, and Saint Thomas were sold off to the US. Through a collection of paintings, ceramics, and collages by contemporary artist La Vaughn Belle, this exhibition investigates the legacy of colonialism, shining a light on this historical episode through the fragments of material culture it left behind.

National Nordic Museum, Seattle / Through 7 April 2024

I Spy: The Secret Museum

(Photo: Harbor History Museum)

This family-friendly exhibition is designed for the keen-eyed kid in all of us. Created by the Harbor History Museum detective squad, it offers visitors a journey through the little-seen collections of the museum. Inspired by the much-loved I SPY book series, you’ll be transported to other times and places.  Can you spot all the objects? What do a telephone booth and a typewriter have in common? The exhibition was curated in keeping with the museum’s mission to inspire curiosity about local history and cultural traditions, preserving and sharing regional heritage as it connects the world around us.

Harbor History Museum, Gig Harbor / Through spring 2024


Named after the traditional coming-of-age celebration for Latina girls on their 15th birthday, this exhibition explores the transformative power of rituals and traditions in helping families and communities gain unity, lifelong connections, and a sense of belonging. On display are various items integral to Quinceañera events, including typical gloves, shoes and tiaras worn for the occasion, as well as other paraphernalia such as La Ultima Muñea  (the last doll) and El Primer Ramo de Flores (The first Bouquet).

Yakima Valley Museum, Yakima / Through summer 2024

Solidarity Now!

In 1968, thousands of people built a protest community and for nearly six weeks occupied 15 acres of the National Mall in Washington, D.C. to call the nation’s attention to the effects of poverty in America. This multi-ethnic movement included African Americans, Mexican Americans, Native Americans, Puerto Ricans, Asians and poor whites from Appalachia and rural communities. It was in direct response to these protects that the Poor People’s Campaign was born. Through photographs, oral histories, and an array of protest signs, political buttons and audio field recordings, this exhibition tells the story of a movement that would redefine social justice and activism in America.

Washington State History Museum, Tacoma / Through 28 April 2024

Pulling Together: A Brief History of Rowing in Seattle

University of Washington crew in front of shell house, 1939 MOHAI, Seattle Post-Intelligencer Collection, 1986.5.15874.1

In 1936, the University of Washington men’s rowing team did the unthinkable: despite injuries and illness, they defeated British, German, and Italian crews and brought home a gold medal at the Berlin Olympics. In celebration of the 2023 movie The Boys in the Boat, directed by George Clooney, this exhibition features a selection of rare artifacts and photographs from that remarkable victory that explore how rowing united Seattle around the shared values of teamwork and inclusion, and connected the city to the world beyond.

Museum of History & Industry, Seattle / Through 2 June 2024

Art Grice: Inquiries

Acclaimed Bainbridge Island-based artist Art Grice has spent decades working in both architectural and fine art photography practices. Growing up with poor eyesight, Grice did not get his first pair of eye glasses until he was seven years old, after which his whole world became clear. As an adult, he discovered an enduring passion in taking photographs. This solo exhibition surveys artistic visions and themes recorded throughout his career including domestic scenes, still life, nature, and portraits.

The Bainbridge Island Museum of Art, Bainbridge Island / 1 March – 2 June 2024

Massive: The Power of Pop Culture

Ancuta Sarca X Nike Bugatti Sneaker Pump, limited edition worn by Kim Kardashian, 2022, (Photo: MoPOP Permanent Collection)

Pop culture shapes how we see the world, driving the ways in which we express and define ourselves and forging new communities through the power of shared enthusiasm. These truths leave use with one answered question: why don’t more institutions take it seriously as a cultural phenomenon? Through an assortment of artefacts spanning its evolution, this exhibition explores the impact of global pop culture on our daily lives, offering visitors the tools to ask their own questions as they deep-dive into their role as creators and consumers of modern pop culture.

Museum of Pop Culture, Seattle / Through spring 2024