Museums exist because of artists, but too often, living artists get shunted to the background by institutions. Tacoma Art Museum has been standing against that problem for 20 years with its Northwest biennial, which every two years makes a concerted argument regarding the art of our time and our place. (You can’t say the same for Seattle Art Museum or Henry Art Gallery, and Portland Art Museum’s recent regional survey was bizarre—with exceptions, including the only artist to span both Portland’s and Tacoma’s shows, Stranger Genius Award–winner Susie Lee.) If you see one local group exhibition this year, let this one be it. Whether it turns out to be brilliant or disastrous, it’s important. (Tacoma Art Museum, 1701 Pacific Ave, Tacoma,, 10 am–5 pm, $10)