Tacoma Art Museum

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Tacoma Art Museum
Tacoma, WA - Tacoma Art Museum 01.jpg
Established 1963 [1]
Location 1701 Pacific Avenue
Tacoma, WA 98402 (United States)
Type Art museum [1]
Director Stephanie A. Stebich [2]
Curator Rock Hushka
Website Tacoma Art Museum

In May 2003, Tacoma Art Museum (TAM) opened a new facility twice the size of its previous home, allowing the museum to expand on its vision and mission. American Institute of Architects AIA Gold Medal winner Antoine Predock designed the building located in the heart of Tacoma’s Cultural District. It features flexible exhibition space in a series of galleries that wrap around an open-air stone courtyard. The galleries showcase Tacoma Art Museum’s permanent collection of American, European, and Asian art, highlighting Northwest artists; and traveling national and international exhibitions. The interior reflects the museum’s spirit, from the emphasis on education spaces that are designed to make art accessible to the framed views of Mt. Rainier and Tacoma's growing core.


Founded in November 1935 as the Tacoma Art Association, the museum has since moved to five separate locations: the Jones Hall Tower at the University of Puget Sound, 742 Broadway, a former jailhouse at 621 Pacific Avenue, a historic Bank of Washington building at 1123 Pacific Avenue, and now 1701 Pacific Avenue. The museum was founded and run by volunteers until the 1970s, and it still receives outstanding community support today.

Curatorial Information[edit]

Tacoma Art Museum has more than 3,000 pieces in its collection, two-thirds of which are classified as Northwest art. Since 1935, Tacoma Art Museum has built a permanent collection that includes work from world-renowned artists such as Mary Cassatt, Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, Edgar Degas, Robert Henri, Edward Hopper, Robert Rauschenberg, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, John Singer Sargent, and Andrew Wyeth.

Nearly seventy percent of the collection consists of works from Northwest artists such as Morris Graves, Jacob Lawrence, Joseph Park, Barbara Earl Thomas, and Patti Warashina.[1]

The museum is proud to have the premier collection of Dale Chihuly’s work (dating 1977 to present) on public long-term display. He held his first museum exhibition at Tacoma Art Museum in 1968.

Untitled - Stone Wave, a major work by sculptor Richard Rhodes, occupies the central court of the museum (see below).

The museum has gained some note for being more open to overtly gay or queer art than most American museums. In 2012, it will present the Hide/Seek show that was censored at the National Portrait Gallery; TAM will present the show uncensored, and will follow it two years later with another show curated by Jonathan Katz, Art, AIDS, America.[3]

The Building[edit]

World-renowned Albuquerque, New Mexico, architect Antoine Predock saw in Tacoma’s misty and muted light a great opportunity to design a building. Using the soft light of the Pacific Northwest, the building reflects the surrounding industrial facilities, Mt. Rainier, and the neighboring museums that now mark Tacoma’s Cultural District.

The museum’s galleries – 12,000 square feet (1,100 m2) in all – are large and well lit, and flexibility is provided through the design of a family of interconnected galleries and movable walls. Modern storage systems, a covered loading dock, and facilities for art handling and prep work ensure that the art is protected. The museum’s permanent collection is one of the premier collections of Northwest artists’ work and includes the consummate public collection of Dale Chihuly’s work on permanent display.

The open-air interior work, Untitled - Stone Wave, is encased in mirrored stainless steel and reflective glass. The piece is a commissioned work designed by Richard Rhodes of Rhodesworks Design Studio. The stone was sourced by Rhodes Architectural Stone and the work was installed under the artist's direction by Rhodes Masonry. The Stone Wave creates a visually simple space for visitors to rest their eyes between viewing the art in each gallery, bringing life to the center of the building.

Despite its visual simplicity, the design of the wave itself is complex, made of ancient Chinese stone pavers washing toward one wall. The shape unfolds to reveal new perspectives as the visitor travels the Weyerhaeuser Company Foundation Walkway around the space to visit each of the five galleries.

Predock, who was inspired by the water and quality of light in Tacoma, envisioned a space “with an element of the Northwest, very quiet and contemplative.” Rhodes brings this vision to life by introducing the element of water and creating a sense of movement with a rigid material. “It is exciting to shape a hard, organic material so that it appears liquid – to manipulate the visual experience so that the pavements appear to wash against the glass,” notes Rhodes.

Visiting Tacoma Art Museum[edit]

From Interstate 5 either North or South, take exit #133 and follow the signs toward the City Center. Exit at the 21st Street off-ramp. Turn left onto 21st Street, and then right on Pacific Avenue. The museum is located on the right past the Washington State History Museum and Union Station. If you wish to park at the museum, turn right on Hood Street, just past the museum. The museum will be on your right. Then take the first right into the museum’s pay parking lot. Park in the numbered pay-parking stalls. There are stairs and elevators from this area into the museum.


Connecting people through art. Tacoma Art Museum serves the diverse communities of the Northwest through its collection, exhibitions and learning programs, emphasizing art and artists from the Northwest.


  1. ^ a b c Tacoma Art Museum: About, ARTINFO, 2008, retrieved 2008-07-30 
  2. ^ Tacoma Art Museum Selects Stephanie A. Stebich as New Director
  3. ^ Jen Graves, "This Gay Art Show: A Revolution at Tacoma Art Museum", The Stranger, 3 August 2011, p. 26.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 47°14′51″N 122°26′12″W / 47.2475°N 122.4368°W / 47.2475; -122.4368