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An Essential Guide to the Seattle Art Museum

September 21, 2023 By CityPASS

Seattle is famous for its vibrant arts scene — almost everywhere you look you'll find street art, theaters, museums, and more. On your next visit to the Emerald City, be sure to add the Seattle Art Museum (SAM) to your must-see list.

With its rich and diverse collection of exhibitions and galleries, SAM is one of the best museums in Seattle. You can discover artists and cultures from around the globe, represented through a number of mediums. If you're ready to let out your inner art critic, check out this fascinating downtown Seattle museum.

The History Behind the Seattle Art Museum

The Seattle Art Museum has grown exponentially since it opened its doors in 1933. Then, the Seattle Art Museum's interior consisted of 1,926 pieces spread out over 25,000 square feet. Over the decades, this American museum has gradually expanded in both surface area and the number of works.

Today, the downtown location covers 312,000 square feet and houses 25,000 pieces. The museum library, which started with 1,400 books, now has more than 33,250. The museum's collection of Asian art grew so much that the Seattle Asian Art Museum was created in 1994.

The Olympic Sculpture Park opened in 2007 and is free to visitors. Covering 8.5 acres of land, it consists of a sculpture park, an outdoor pavilion, and a beautiful beach on Puget Sound.

Art Conservation Efforts

Conservation is at the heart of SAM's mission. In order for the Seattle art exhibits to remain in pristine condition, the museum keeps a stable, climate-controlled environment throughout the year.

While Seattle is notoriously cloudy and rainy, the museum still has to protect the artwork from excessive sunlight. The Seattle Art Museum lights are controlled in such a way to avoid any damage. The art is also regularly rotated so that no one piece receives too much natural or artificial light.,/p>

Equity at SAM

Equity is also important at SAM. The museum believes that art is essential in showing the world through a variety of lenses. Like many American galleries, SAM curates pieces from around the world to promote education, revolution, and experience, and to inspire change for the better of society.

Educational Programs

SAM offers educational programs for schools and educators to help students find their passion for the arts. These customizable programs can meet the learning goals of any teacher or school while providing students with the opportunity to think critically and explore their curiosity. Through guided tours, hands-on workshops, and even virtual tours, SAM provides ample opportunities for learners of all ages to get in touch with their creative sides.

Permanent Global Collections

SAM has permanent collections that represent cultures from a number of continents. For example, SAM's collection is on par with those of other top African art museums in the country. Figures, traditional dress, masks, and many other objects are all part of the permanent collection. SAM also has impressive collections from areas including ancient Europe and the Americas.

Seasonal and Special Exhibitions

SAM always has an intriguing rotation of temporary exhibitions. Before your visit, be sure to check the museum's calendar to see what will be featured.

Past SAM exhibitions have focused on mediums such as photography, textiles, drawings, and canvas. The current exhibits mix video, print, paint, and more. SAM also lists upcoming exhibitions so you can take a peek at what's to come.

Visitor Guidelines

Guests are no longer required to wear masks or socially distance but are welcome to do so if they wish. You must enter through the First and Union entrance, as the south entrance is temporarily closed. Once inside the museum, guests are asked to check large bags, backpacks, and other bulky items.

Keep in mind that while most of the permanent collections and exhibitions will be open, SAM sometimes has to close certain galleries for conservation efforts or to prepare for upcoming exhibitions.

Parking for the Seattle Art Museum is at the 3rd and Stewart Garage or the Russell Investment Garage. Bike racks are also available nearby.

Explore SAM's Extensive Collection With a Seattle C3® Ticket

Before you buy your tickets to the Seattle Art Museum, consider purchasing a Seattle C3 CityPASS® ticket instead. This ticket lets you explore three of the city's top attractions and saves you up to when compared to buying individual tickets. Your ticket to exploring the best of Seattle is just a click away.

Seattle Lodging

To get the most out of your stay in Seattle, we recommend finding lodging near Seattle's top attractions. Use this map to find the right lodging for you:

Header Image ©Photo: Alborz Kamalizad

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