The building that houses the Seattle Asian Art Museum is on the path to get a much needed renovation and expansion. The proposed changes will help bring the 83-year-old building up to modern standards. Those changes include seismic upgrades, increasing American Disabilities Act (ADA) accessibility and adding a climate control system. Only heating is currently available.
“You’ve got to have climate control to not only ensure the preservation of your collection but also to have the ability to borrow fragile works from other places,” said Kim Rorschach, director of the Seattle Art Museum (SAM). “We can’t because we don’t have climate control.”
In November and December, the museum is hosting community meetings to collect public comment on the renovation.
The Asian Art Museum is under the SAM umbrella. SAM was originally housed in the art deco building in Volunteer Park that the Asian Art museum now calls home. SAM moved to its downtown location in the 1990s. This is the first time the building is set to undergo significant upgrades.
Rorschach said the expansion is also needed to better reflect Seattle’s growing Asian community.
“We need to also develop more of a focus on Indian art, south Asian art. There’s a lot of interest in the community,” Rorschach said. “We don’t have a dedicated education space for artmaking and our kids and school programs, which have really grown over the years.”
The proposed additional footprint of the expansion is 3,500 square feet. Because the building is three stories tall that expansion includes additional vertical space.
“We’ve actually evolved the design quite a bit in response to public comment and suggestion,” Rorschach said. “We feel that what we’re doing will enhance the park and make that area of the park better for the people who are outside as well as the people who are inside.”
On average, about 70,000 to 80,000 people visit SAM’s Asian Art museum each year. They come from the neighborhood and around the world. Rorschach said the museum is an important resource for the community.
“I would argue that we all ought to know more about Asia and history, economics, culture, art and the programs and the exhibitions that we do give people a real opportunity to learn, that’s unique in our region,” Rorschach said. “Art is everything. It helps you understand the human condition and see things and understand yourself in a way that you never otherwise would.”
If all goes according to plan, the museum will close next spring so construction can begin in the fall. The museum is expected to reopen spring 2019. The cost of the project is approximately $49 million some of which will be paid through funds provided by the city of Seattle and King County. SAM officials expect the majority of the costs will be covered by private donations.
WHAT: Seattle Asian Art Museum Renovation & Proposed Expansion Community Meetings
WHEN: Nov. 19 & Dec. 10, 1 – 2:30 p.m.
WHERE: SAAM, 1400 E. Prospect St.