The Seattle Asian Art Museum reopened after a major remodel and facelift in 2020, revealing a stunning integration of the interior of the building with the luscious Volunteer Park that surrounds it, with beautiful, indoor-outdoor space, filled with natural light, earthy and calming tones.
But of course, it’s the art that is the star. Check out these seven go-to attractions that are sure to keep the attention of even the youngest and wiggliest of museum-goers.
Let there be light. Check out the light installation by Seattle-born artist Kenzan Tsutakawa-Chinn in the Fuller Garden Court, up the stairs once you enter the museum. Gather is a cross-section design of LED lights, inspired by patterns found in Japanese textiles. See if your kids can spot it (on the ceiling) and figure out how it connects to the Black Sun sculpture outside the front entrance.
Find the rainbow! In the Color in Clay gallery, ceramics from all over Asia including Japan, China, Korea, Thailand, and many other countries are on display, organized by color instead of era. Kids can admire the intricate details painted onto each piece, and make guesses about why certain colors were important to various Asian cultures.
Art + Nature. Kids can’t resist animals and nature, and therefore the Picturing Nature gallery is a must-see. See if you can spot the case of netsuke (what might they be carved from?), the duck and lotus painting, and the sculptures and paintings of cows.
Flower power! In the Sharing Stories gallery, learn about creating illusion in art, and find the large-scale, colorful flower painting on the wall that appears to be 3-D to the naked eye, but what happens when you look more closely? Also in this multi-age learning space, ponder how the use of emojis convey emotion (and wonder, is this art?), and explore identity with a hands-on mask making activity. There is also a “response wall” for adding your own ideas about art.
Break boundaries. Explore the expanded, revitalized space of the museum by perusing and pointing out favorite pieces in the collections. What kinds of stories do they tell? Boundless: Stories of Asian Art expands across 13 galleries, and offers works across media and content such as textiles, calligraphy, spirituality, the afterlife, literature, celebrations, identity, and so much more. Be/longing: Contemporary Asian Art features 12 artists from across Asia and works that are vibrant and full of color and visual stimuli. Lead children to Some/One, a large metal armor piece by Do Ho Suh, walk around it, and ask them to guess what it’s made of (stainless steel dog tags!).
Fountains of youth. SAAM has restored three original fountains on site; two exterior and one interior. Go on a scavenger hunt and see if your family can spot all three.
Explore the outdoors. Head to the east side of the building to experience the new, glass-enclosed park lobby, which creates a unique visual connection to Volunteer Park. When the kiddos tire of the artworks on display, head outside to take photos on the camel sculptures, check out the view of the Space Needle through Black Sun, and get the wiggles out on the park grounds.
Bonus: Family Guide! Want more? Ask for the free Family Activity Guide upon entrance to the museum, filled with maps, learning and exploration prompts, fun illustrations, and kid-friendly activities.
The newly renovated Asian Art Museum, still embodying its original 1930s art deco essence, opens to the public this weekend (Feb. 8-9) and all 10,000 tickets have already been reserved. But, not to worry! The next Free Family Saturday is on March 7, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., so don’t wait to reserve your ticket to meet Sammy the Camel. The museum will continue to offer free admission each first Saturday, as well as the first and second Thursdays of the month. Children ages 14 and younger are always free.
Leah Winters is the Calendar Editor for Seattle’s Child, and a former K-8 teacher with a Masters in Art Education from Boston University. She is also the (very busy) mother to three young boys, ages 7, 4, and 1.