Hilary Lee, Deputy Director of Chihuly Garden and Glass, shares the seven best places to see art in Seattle.
Hilary Lee is the Deputy Director of Chihuly Garden and Glass, a long-term exhibition of artist Dale Chihuly’s work at the Seattle Center in Washington’s biggest city. Lee moved there to attend the University of Washington, and has now lived there for almost 20 years, thanks to “the cool people, good weather, and great food,” she says. “It’s an amazing place to be experimental and try new things.”
Though Seattle is the fastest growing tech hub in the country (it saw over 25% growth in tech jobs in 2016 and 2017), Lee says you shouldn’t overlook the art scene here. “It is a great place to be an emerging artist. The community embraces a cross disciplinary approach, taking risks, and crazy ideas,” she says. “There are a lot of resources for young artists and a burgeoning network that wants to support them.”
Even small businesses in Seattle do a great job bringing in local artists to adorn their walls: “I’ve always been impressed with the variety and talent when I’m going to my local coffee shop, getting my hair cut, or eating at a restaurant,” she says (favorites include Joe Bar in Capitol Hill, any of the four Fresh Flours locations, and a tiny barista stand called Café Bambino).
For her role at Chihuly Garden and Glass, where she’s worked since 2012, Lee leads tours and plans programming. “Everyone needs art in their life and I get to help people realize that,” she says. If you find yourself in Seattle and need some art in your life, below you’ll find the seven places Lee recommends adding to your itinerary.
This is my favorite place to take in a lot of art in a short amount of time. Tashiro Kaplan is a loft complex that is home to dozens of artists and galleries with monthly open studio days. My favorite galleries in this building are Method Gallery, SOIL Gallery, and CoCA (Center of Contemporary Art).
There are many artists working in glass in this region and the best place to go to check out contemporary glass artists is Traver Gallery and their smaller gallery Vetri. They feature monthly exhibitions of local artists and have a long history of specializing in glass art.
I always tell people to visit the Olympic Sculpture Park for a quintessential Northwest art experience—it has a beautiful view of the waterfront, large public artworks done by well-known contemporary artists, lovely landscaped paths, and it’s free! They also have great programming as it’s managed by the Seattle Art Museum.
When I want to feel super cool and hip, I go to the Capitol Hill Art Walk on the second Thursday of every month. This neighborhood is a mecca for emerging talent and artists who are constantly creating unique events around different group shows. It’s very grassroots and has given birth to many artist collectives. My favorite places to check out are Roq La Rue Gallery, Ghost Gallery, and Retail Therapy.
This museum has an amazing art collection of classical paintings that once belonged to two Seattleites named Charles and Emma Frye. Their exhibitions change often and are very contemporary and full of spectacle, which is a nice dichotomy in the space. Another great feature is that it is one of the only museums that is free! Make sure you check out their gift shop for some cool locally made souvenirs. If you are feeling adventurous or thirsty, visit The Hideout, a unique art bar around the corner.
Urban Artworks is a local non-profit that pairs young students with local artists to create public art around Seattle. I love seeing the painted murals and electrical boxes created by this group—they are like little art gems sprinkled throughout the city.