Bellevue Arts Museum Is... Actually Cool Now?
Bellevue Arts Museum—which has no permanent collection and grew out of Bellevue's summer arts and crafts fair—is quickly becoming a hub for amazing, weird, really cool exhibitions by mostly local artists.
It's an unlikely turn of events. In 2001, BAM moved into its current building, designed by Steven Holl. In 2003, facing a lack of attendance and running out of money, the museum closed for 18 months. There was also a brief shutdown scare in 2016 after losing donors and key staff.
But in September of 2017, BAM hired executive director and chief curator Benedict Heywood. His background as founder of an alternative arts space in Minneapolis called The Soap Factory and his two-year stint as director of Paul Allen's short-lived art gallery Pivot Art + Culture make the British curator uniquely qualified for his role.
Without a permanent collection, BAM can show whatever it wants. "We should be appealing to the widest cross section of people who are interested in culture," Heywood said over coffee recently.
There's no denying the vigor and excitement at BAM these days. Recently, it hosted the first solo museum exhibition of Clyde Petersen's work—including a cardboard punk-rock tour van. The elegance of Emily Nachison's glass horse heads (exhibited last fall) come to mind, as does Robert E. Jackson's collection of intimate and mysterious found photographs. And Dylan Neuwirth's futuristic SOURCE CODE, a neon tower of symbols, currently glows on one of BAM's balconies.
When I brought up BAM's fraught financial history, Heywood didn't give a canned response. He told me, "It is what it is." He emphasized a balanced approach to the difficulties BAM could face in the future. "We need to be stable and we need to be sustainable. So whatever we do, we need to be able to pay for it. It's [about] working more with people locally and with self-generated individual artist shows."
That sort of pragmatism, coupled with his robust curatorial eye, bodes well for the future—and for local artists. This spring, BAM will be showing works by Simon Hanselmann, the Tasmanian-born, Seattle-based comics artist. His Megg, Mogg, and Owl series (first published by Fantagraphics Books) will be displayed throughout the museum.
The museum will also show local artist Joseph Rossano's School project, featuring several hundred objects shaped like fish and made of mirrored glass, in an effort to raise awareness around the dwindling salmon and steelhead populations.
Museums are usually spaces heavily caught up in the past. But I'm enamored of this idea that seeks to reflect a community, an environment, a present tense.
"We are fast approaching the point where there are no more gatekeepers, and this idea of the curator being the gatekeeper of excellence is becoming more and more nonsensical to my mind," Heywood mused. "And so that gives me a challenge: What do I give you that you can't get already? What experiences can I give you that you don't already have?" —Jasmyne Keimig
Hilarious Interruptions at the Symphony and Opera
During the first set change of Verdi's Il Trovatore at Seattle Opera, all the audience members who'd been storing up their throat-clearing/coughing got a chance to let it out. The earnest chorus of throat-clearing/coughing became an ironic one, with audience members teasing/imitating each other in the dark. It was unimaginable that the set change was taking this long. But the second set change took longer, whereupon an anonymous audience member's voice cried out into the dark, "Do you need some help?"
Weeks later, at Benaroya Hall, the Seattle Symphony was playing the world premiere of a piece by Taiwanese composer Chia-Ying Lin when, toward the end, an unexpected noise pierced the air. It interacted very interestingly with the rest of the music. Then there was another interesting series of notes. Were they coming from the back of the house? Were they an idiosyncratic part of the composition? Nope—it was a kid crying. —Christopher Frizzelle
Live Shows Inspired by RuPaul's Drag Race
Now that RuPaul's Drag Race is on VH1 and firmly in control of the gay imagination, bars all over town have started hosting high- energy drag competitions, some with huge cash prizes. Queer Bar hosted a race last fall, culminating in a $500 cash prize and a six-month contract to the winner. Just a few blocks down Pine Street, R Place recently held its own drag competition, upping the payout to $5,000. Then Queer Bar returned with an "all stars" competition and $6,000 in prizes. Other venues have started jumping on the trend, too. Maybe we can get to $10,000? —Chase Burns