Bellevue Art Museum

Bellevue, WA



Bellevue Art Museum Opens the Doors to Its New Home


Bellevue Art Museum opens the doors to its new home on January 13, 2001 with a public dedication ceremony at 10 a.m. Designed by internationally renowned architect Steven Holl, the bold glass, aluminum and textured concrete structure has been crafted to support the Museum's mission of providing opportunities not just to see art, but to explore and make it as well. The move to the three-story, 36,000 square-foot building gives the Museum a dramatic presence in downtown Bellevue's pedestrian corridor. It also allows the Museum to expand significantly its innovative visual arts exhibitions and educational programming, placing it at the center of the region's cultural scene. Located on the corner of Bellevue Way and NE Sixth Street, the new Museum has four classrooms for its Museum School, an interactive Explore Gallery, an artist-in-residence program, an auditorium, a multimedia library, a Museum store and café in addition to 8,500 square feet of exhibition space. Funds for the $23 million project were raised in three and a half years in the highly successful BAM 2000 Capital Campaign. (left: architect Steven Holl watercolor courtesy of Bellevue Art Museum)

"The support for the new Museum was unprecedented and reflected the community's deep commitment to this new gathering place," stated Kemper Freeman, Jr. and Frank Blethen, Campaign Chairs of the BAM 2000 Capital Campaign. "Bellevue Art Museum will be the cultural heart of the City of Bellevue and a regional resource wrapped in world-class architecture."

"Bellevue Art Museum has a simple philosophy - that art's joy, power and creativity are not contained in paintings and sculpture. They lie in the eyes, hearts, hands and minds of artists and audiences," stated Diane Douglas, Museum Director. "Our new home will provide an inspiring venue for bringing artists and audiences together to see, explore and make art."

Steven Holl's new building is both an experiential art piece and a laboratory for investigations into the creative process. Its unconventional design fits closely with Bellevue Art Museum's unconventional approach to art. People, rather than objects, are the Museum's main focus and emphasis is placed on the creative process as much as on its product. This approach led to the decision not to maintain a permanent collection. Instead of acquiring art, the Museum now devotes its resources to dynamic visual arts exhibitions and educational programming designed to further the active exploration and experience of art. Exhibitions, educational programming and the artist-in-residence program are integrated through an innovative learning plan that underscores Bellevue Art Museum's commitment to provide opportunities to see, explore and make art. A commemorative book of Steven Holl's process and Museum design will be available in the Museum Store.


The Architect

"Bellevue Art Museum's spirit of openness and emphasis on the exploration of creativity allowed me to further my own exploration of perception by focusing on how light changes throughout the day and with the seasons," explains architect Steven Holl.

Light and perception were also major themes in Holl's signature Chapel of St. Ignatius for Seattle University, completed in March 1997. The highly acclaimed chapel is considered one of the most significant works of modern architecture in the Pacific Northwest. Holl, a Bremerton, Washington native and graduate of the University of Washington, has also designed important architectural projects in cities around the world, including the Museum of Contemporary Art in Helsinki, Finland; Cranbrook Institute of Science in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan; American Memorial Library in Berlin, Germany; Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, Missouri; and Fukuoka Housing in Fukuoka, Japan. Holl was awarded a national AIA award for Design Excellence in 1997 for his Chapel of St. Ignatius. Holl was also awarded a New York AIA Medal of Honor. Holl also teaches at Columbia University.


The Building

Holl made extensive use of glass, terraces and skylights in his investigation of light, creating a structure that is an artwork in its own right. Roughly a third of the exterior surface is glass, with the remaining two-thirds divided evenly between hand-sanded marine aluminum and textured concrete stained in earth-red tones. Throughout the building different types of light are utilized to correspond to different concepts of time. The design also focuses on how light comes into the building and how it emanates out to create an interactive beacon of light at night.

Inspired by the Museum's origins as a street fair, large windows at ground level reinforce the Museum's openness to community. The glass and aluminum entryway off Bellevue Way is two-storied and artwork is continuously projected onto the white exterior ceiling. Visitors are welcomed into the Museum Forum through a reception lobby. The Forum, an elliptical interior atrium, is at the center of the building and rises two stories. This large, open space serves as a gathering place, a starting point for tours and a site for special events. A 5 1/2-foot wide staircase takes visitors to the second floor along the south wall. A suspended stairway transports the visitor to the third floor along the north wall over head.

Like the Forum, the Museum Store and Café on the ground floor are visually connected to the surrounding community by large windows. The 1100 square foot café has indoor seating for 50 and outdoor seating for 20 under a glass awning. Tully's operates the café and serves coffee and light menu items. The Auditorium on the ground floor is outfitted with state-of-the-art audio/visual equipment. Movable seating allows this space to be used for a wide range of functions. Steven Holl has also designed the fixtures for the public spaces of the building. On the rooftop, the elliptical Court of Light highlights Steven Holl's interest in the relationship between light and seasonal change. The top of the courtyard's north wall follows the curve of the 48th parallel and allows people to watch the sun trace the arc of the wall during the summer solstice. The Terrace of Planetary Motion on the second floor, along Bellevue Way, has moving star imagery projected onto the exterior aluminum wall.

The Exhibition Galleries on the third floor also have terraces, furthering the building's feeling of openness. The galleries offer changing exhibitions featuring national, international and regional visual art. Like the rest of the Museum, the galleries are wired in every possible way, giving the Museum the capacity to show art utilizing new and emerging technologies. Seven thousand square-feet of gallery space on the third floor can be utilized as separate or integrated exhibition space.

The Museum School occupies two classrooms on the second floor and another two on the third floor near the exhibition galleries. Each classroom averages 1000 square feet and accommodates 24 students. One is a ceramic studio with two kilns and twelve potters' wheels. With 4000 square feet of classroom and studio space, the Museum School opens its doors with 50 classes offering a wide range of hands-on art classes designed to serve all ages and levels from beginning to advanced study.

The interactive Explore Gallery on the second floor reflects the Museum's emphasis on experiential learning. Its high-tech, hands-on inaugural exhibit provides tools for exploring and understanding architecture, particularly the sophisticated architecture of the Museum's new building.


Diane Douglas, Museum Director

Diane Douglas has led the museum's growth since 1991, earning BAM its reputation as an innovative center for artistic and educational exploration in one of the nation's fastest growing communities. Prior to that she served as Executive Director of the David Adler Cultural Center, a multidisciplinary arts center in the Chicago area. She is also a poet and art critic whose writings appear in magazines, journals and books. Diane holds an undergraduate degree in Semiotics from Brown University and a Master of Arts degree from the University of Delaware where she was a fellow in the Winterthur Program. (left: Diane Douglas, photo courtesy of BAM)

Diane has served on numerous review panels and advisory boards for organizations including the National Endowment for the Arts, the American Association of Museums, the.Washington State Trade and Convention Center, Meydenbauer Center and the Pilchuck Glass School and for state and local arts commissions in Illinois, Kentucky and Washington. From 1990-1993, she served as Program Chair for the National Council for Education in the Ceramic Arts and currently is a trustee of the Archie Bray Foundation and the Bellevue Chamber of Commerce.


Brian Wallace, Curator

Brian Wallace brings a dynamic vision of contemporary art to Bellevue Art Museum's programming. A graduate of the Center for Curatorial Studies and Art in Contemporary Culture at Bard College, New York, he was Assistant Curator at Cooper Union, New York, and Media Arts Curator at the Computer Museum, Boston, prior to his appointment as Curator at BAM in 1997. He has also worked extensively as an independent curator and writer. (left: Brian Wallace, photo courtesy of BAM)

His curatorial work in exhibitions, film and special projects for BAM reflects an active engagement with emerging trends and media, as well as historical precedents. Wallace has taken on the challenge of creating rigorous curatorial concepts within the framework of BAM's experiential and educational mandates. Recent programs include "Game Show," featuring noted regional and national artists as they investigated the territory between the fun of visible objects and underlying conceptual structures; "The Self, Absorbed," in which new technologies provide the catalyst for new approaches to self-portraiture; "Fresh Flowers," an international survey of complex relationships conveyed through floral imagery; and "Hands on Color," which provided interactive and installation strategies with works by artists from around the country.

rev. 11/20/00

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This page was originally published in Resource Library Magazine. Please see Resource Library's Overview section for more information. rev. 4/6/11

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