ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT

Seattle art, free for all.

Seattle art, free for all.

First Thursdays and the public display of collections.

First Thursdays and the public display of collections.

Photos: Shutterstock, iStockPhoto

The idea of public art stretches back, quite literally, to the stone age. From the days of the earliest cave paintings, shared art has served to remind us that life is baffling, beautiful, occasionally brutal and always a group activity. We, no less than the cavemen, need an occasional reminder that we’re all in this together.

In Seattle, that reminder comes on the first Thursday of every month, when public museums and private galleries open their doors free of charge. If you happen to number among the gathered masses, here’s what to look for:

Seattle Art Museum (SAM)

Seattle Art Museum (SAM)

Known for its extensive collection of modern and ethnic art, the Seattle Art Museum offers an engaging departure from the traditional male European painters. (Although they are amply represented here.) The Native American collection makes for particularly interesting viewing, especially when juxtaposed against the notable Australian Aboriginal collection.

See it while you can: The marble bust of Claudius, acquired in 1993 from the notorious Robin Symes, who single-handedly privatized much of the public art of ancient Rome. The bust is still on exhibit, but museum officials have contacted Italian authorities to explore its possible return.

1300 First Ave., Seattle, WA, 98101
206.654.3100

Seattle Asian Art Museum (SAAM)

Seattle Asian Art Museum (SAAM)

Seattle’s location on the Pacific makes it a natural for a collection of Asian art. The permanent SAAM collection resides in the original deco-moderne SAM building, which itself is a sight to behold. While the collection is small, the exhibits can be exquisite, and the surrounding grounds—designed by Seattle’s renowned Olmsted brothers—are worth the price of a non-first-Thursday admission.

The piece you didn’t know you owned: An early print of the now-ubiquitous The Great Wave off Kanagawa, by Hokusai. Originally created in the 1820s, this wood-block composition now graces coffee mugs, shopping bags, T-shirts and living rooms worldwide.

Volunteer Park
1400 East Prospect St., Seattle, WA, 98112
206.654.3100

Olympic Sculpture Park

Olympic Sculpture Park

An adjunct of the SAM and always free of charge, the Olympic Sculpture Park offers nine acres of sculpture on the Seattle waterfront. The grounds, like so much of Seattle, have been masterfully sculpted for extraordinary views of both the art and the landscape.

Worth knowing: The park was the brainchild of Mimi Gates, one-time SAM director and stepmother of Bill Gates.

2901 Western Ave., Seattle, WA, 98121
206.654.3100

First Thursday Art Walk

First Thursday Art Walk

America’s first official art walk, Seattle’s First Thursday has proceeded apace on Pioneer Square since 1981. Depending on the day, the walk includes some 50 galleries, dozens of public installations and an enchanting display of Victorian architecture. It’s as much a festival as an art tour.

Pioneer Square, Seattle

The Fremont Troll

The Fremont Troll

Infamously prowling below the Fremont Bridge. Don’t miss it.

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