The History of the Arts in SeattleJune 27 , 2018
For decades, Seattle has been home to all kinds of art, from sculpture and painting to music, dance, and theatre. Today, the city is still a wonderful playing ground for artists and art lovers. In this guide, we'll explore the past few decades of the arts in Seattle, from the performing halls of the 19th century to the galleries of today. Want to learn more about art history? Consider picking up a book on the subject.
Popular Seattle Art Galleries & Museums
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Performing Arts Venues in Seattle
- Seattle Rep: New plays and re-imaginings of classics
- ACT: Dedicated to producing relevant works for brave audiences
- Book-It: Compelling theatre since 1986
- STG: A non-profit organization with several venues
- 5th Avenue: Broadway musicals for Pacific Northwest locals
- Teatro Zinzanni: A unique combination of dinner theatre and circus
The Art Scene in Seattle
Seattle is one of the greatest arts cities in the world. Many reputable artists, writers, and musicians call it home. It hosts a wide range of creative endeavors, including the Seattle Symphony, the Pacific Northwest Ballet, multiple theater companies, and countless museums and galleries showcasing unique art and artifacts.
Art in the city began during the 19th century in the form of plays and other types of live entertainment. Yesler's Hall, the first established performing hall in Seattle, was built during the 1850s by Henry L. Yesler.
A few years after Yesler's Performing Hall was created, a man named Charles Plummer transformed his store's second floor into a concert venue. Plummer Hall also hosted dances and theatre. In fact, it was where the first professional theatrical production in the city took place. The event was actress Edith Mitchell performing a reading from Shakespeare.
In the 1870s, plays were performed by large theater companies who came to the city. The first full-length production of a Shakespeare play, the Taming of the Shrew, was put on by the Phelps Company in 1875. They also performed melodramas, such as Uncle Tom's Cabin, The Lady of Lyons, and The Gilded Age, among others.
Box houses also started to become popular in Seattle during the 1870s. These places housed various entertainments and performances, but their main purpose was to sell alcohol to their patrons.
During the 1920s, Seattle entered the visual arts scene with the arrival of Australian painter Ambrose Patterson. A few decades later, artists Guy Anderson, Morris Graves, Kenneth Callahan, and Mark Tobey established the Northwest School. It was an art movement that made a huge mark in the 1930s. These artists, also known as the big four, gained recognition for going beyond the traditional style of Northwest art.
The big four of the Northwest School created art that had a mixture of traditional Asian style and elements from the puget sound. Their works resulted in unique paintings, drawings, sculptures, and photography that made them excel in the industry.
Artists who joined the Northwest School would normally use gouache, oil, and tempera on canvas, paper, or wood. Others, like Graves, created 3D art using glass, steel, or stone. Apart from oil painting, Anderson also collected random objects he found beautiful and used them as inspiration for his paintings.
Seattle is becoming a popular center for glass art. One of the most significant names in the field is Dale Chihuly, a world-famous sculptor who is known for his Chihuly Garden and Glass exhibit. Chihuly's other creations can be seen in public areas like the Seattle Aquarium and Benaroya Hall.
There are about 200 galleries and five major art museums that can be found in the Emerald City. These are the Seattle Art Museum, the Seattle Asian Art Museum, the Frye Art Museum, the Burke Museum of Natural History, and the Henry Art Gallery. There are also a number of commercial art galleries, artist studios, and non-profit organizations.
A robust public art program helps to integrate gorgeous creations into a number of projects, from parks to roadways and bridges. Part of the city's budget is allocated to promoting art in public spaces, and local neighborhoods can also raise funds to install sculptures in their area.
Murals can be found in bus tunnels, while other types of art can be found in hallways and men's rooms. Some of the city's most well-known pieces include the "Neon Rapunzel" on the Fremont Bridge, the "Salmon Waves" at the Hiram Chittenden Locks, the "Sundial" in Gas Works Park, the "Fremont Troll" under the Aurora Bridge, and Richard Beyer's "Waiting for the Interurban."
From the high-end museums and galleries in Pioneer Square to the interesting installations in parks and other public areas, art is definitely all around the city.
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