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New Museum Exhibits: Winter/Spring 2023 

See special and limited-time exhibitions throughout the Pacific Northwest 

If the colder weather is getting you down, here’s a suggestion: Why not visit one of the Pacific Northwest’s fascinating museums? Many of our region’s museums and galleries have special shows, events and new exhibits running through the spring. 

A trip to a museum is a moment of discovery. Even if you return to the same space again and again, you’ll never know what you will see for the first time.  

Here are a few notable special exhibits in our region that are worth exploring. Please check ahead in case of program changes. (Skip to the bottom to see special events and shows dedicated to Black History Month in February. And don’t forget to read our Q&A on MoPop’s new hip-hop exhibit.)

Fists of the five original curating artists of "Body Language," now at The Burke Museum in Seattle. Photo by Aaron Leon.
Fists of the five original curating artists of “Body Language,” now at The Burke Museum. Photo: Aaron Leon

Seattle 

The Burke Museum 

Body Language: Reawakening Cultural Tattooing of the Northwest

Through April 16

Learn the rich history of Indigenous tattooing along the Northwest coast, with photos, objects, artwork and stories. Celebrates the resilience of Indigenous tattoo practitioners and their visual language. 

On permanent display: T Rex skulls and real dinosaur fossils; biology specimens of insects, animals and plants; Northwest native art; archeology artifacts. 

Admission: Adults, $22; senior, $20; youth and student (4-17), $14; child (3 and under), free. The first Thursday of each month is free. (Pre-purchasing online tickets with reserved time slots is encouraged.) Open Tuesday-Sunday. 

Photos of the work of Alvar Aalto by Janne Tuunanen at the National Nordic Museum in Seattle
Photos of the work of Alvar Aalto. Photo: Janne Tuunanen

National Nordic Museum 

Alvar Aalto’s Jyväskylä by Janne Tuunanen

Through March 19

New York-based Finnish photographer Janne Tuunanen made a series of photographs highlighting the work of renowned Finnish architect and designer Alvar Aalto (1898-1976) in the Jyväskylä Region in central Finland. 

Plus, 2-5 p.m. Feb. 3, see the film, “Aalto: Architect of Emotion,” in honor of Aalto’s 125th birthday. (Cost is $10 for non-members; $5 for members; University of Washington students, free.)   

On permanent display: ancient stone axes and tools; the contents of a Viking grave; rare religious objects from the Christianization of the Nordic region; displays of everyday life.

Admission: Adults, $20; senior, $16; college student, $15; youth (5-18), $10; child  (4 and under), free. The first Thursday of each month is free. Open Tuesday-Sunday. 

Artist Vincent Keele and Orange Rising. at the Northwest African American Museum
Artist Vincent Keele and Orange Rising. Photo: Northwest African American Museum

Northwest African American Museum

The Colors of Life

Through June 24

See the colorful and creative abstract art of four Northwest African American artists. The exhibit features the work of Vincent Keele, Shantell Jackson, Lo Mar Metoyer and Yeggy Michael. 

Admission: adult, $10; youth (4-18), $5; children (3 and under), free. Open Wednesday-Saturday.  

The Green Coastline at the Museum of Glass in Tacoma, Washington
The Green Coastline at the Museum of Glass. Photo: Ethan Stern

Tacoma

Museum of Glass

Out of the Vault: Soundtracks

Through June 18 

You may have seen their beautiful works of glass; now you can hear the music that inspired the artists. Out of the Vault features the soundtracks that artists listen to while they create during the time-consuming, often tedious process of working in glass. Hear personal playlists of each of the artists in the exhibition, accessible through QR codes and available on Spotify.

On permanent display: 20th and 21st Century glass works. 

Admission: adult, $18; senior/military/college student, $16; student (6-18), 10; child (5 and under), free. Prices can vary due to gallery changes and/or visiting artist residencies. Admission is free from 5-8 p.m. on the third Thursday of each month. Open Wednesday-Sunday.

Washington State History Museum (AAA Discount of 15% on two adult admissions)

Fine Lines: Cartoons from the WSHS Collections

Through June 11

Tickle your funny bone with cartoons and illustrations from the Washington State Historical Society’s collections, many of which have never been shown in a gallery setting. Dating from the early 1900s, the cartoons still are relevant today.

On permanent display: Northwest history artifacts; WW II Japanese Internment gallery; model railroad 

Admission: adult, $14; senior/student/military, $11; child 5 and under, free. Admission is free on the third Thursday of every month. Open Thursday-Sunday. 

Whatcom Museum. Photo by Jack Carver/Whatcom Museum
Whatcom Museum. Photo: Jack Carver/Whatcom Museum

Bellingham

Whatcom Museum, Old City Hall  

There Was a Time: Whimsical Relics & Eclectic Images

Through May 21

Showcases quirky items from the history collection and photo archives that rarely see the light of day. Interpret what these objects tell us about our shared sense of place, the past and ultimately ourselves.  

On permanent display: 19th Century to contemporary artwork; Pacific Northwest history and Indigenous cultures; historical photos. 

Admission: general, $10; youth (6-17)/students/military/seniors, $8; children (2-5), $5; children under 2, free. Open Wednesday-Saturday.  

"Dancing with Life: Mexican Masks" at the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture in Spokane, Washington
“Dancing with Life: Mexican Masks” at the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture. Photo: Dean Davis

Spokane

Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture ($1 AAA member discount off regular admissions) 

Dancing with Life: Mexican Masks

Through April 16 

See a playful artform with roots in the celebration of religious holidays. Worn by dancers in performances known as danzas, the masks depict devils and holy men; celebrities from media and politics, and other known individuals who personify sinners and false idols. Also features dance regalia and videos. 

On permanent display: art; regional history; American Indian artifacts. 

Admission: adult, $12; youth 6-17, $7; senior, $10; college student, $10; children 5 and under, free. Admission is 50% off from 5-8 p.m. every third Thursday of the month during Thursday Night Live. Open Tuesday-Sunday. 

"Couture" at Yakima Valley Museum is one of many new exhibits coming to Pacific Northwest Museums in 2023.
“Couture” at Yakima Valley Museum. Photo: Carolyn Schactler/explorewashingtonstate.com

Yakima

Yakima Valley Museum

Couture

Through April 

Showcases the spectacular fashion designs from Carolyn Schactler, a retired professor of apparel design at Central Washington University in Ellensburg. Some 20 original creations will be on display, 11 of which stand on motorized platforms and rotate slowly, allowing the visitor to inspect every stitch.

On permanent display: agricultural equipment, apple box labels, curiosities, costumes and more. 

Admission: adults $8, seniors $6; children 6-18, $5; students, $6; families, $18; children 5 and under, free. Open Tuesday-Saturday. 

Oscar Howe seated in front of a selection of his paintings at South Dakota State University
The late Oscar Howe seated in front of a selection of his paintings at South Dakota State University. Photo: Portland Art Museum

Portland

Portland Art Museum

Dakota Modern: The Art of Oscar Howe

Through May 14

Introduces new generations to one of the 20th century’s most innovative Native American painters. Oscar Howe (1915–1983) committed his artistic career to the preservation, relevance and ongoing expression of his Yanktonai Dakota culture. 

On permanent display: Art from around the world; graphic art; photography; silver objects

Admission: adults, $25; seniors and college students, $22; children (17 and under) and veterans/active-duty military, free. Open Wednesday-Sunday. 

From the Ground Up: Black Architects and Designers exhibit at the Museum of History and Industry in Seattle. Photo is by McAdoo 2.
From the Ground Up: Black Architects and Design at the Museum of History & Industry. Photo: McAdoo 2

Black History Month 

Since 1976, every president has designated February as Black History Month. Here are some exhibits in our region with African American history themes. 

Museum of History & Industry, Seattle

From the Ground Up: Black Architects and Design

Feb. 4-April 30  

Celebrates the enduring innovation and impact of Black architects across the United States. This traveling exhibit highlights individual architects and designers from the late 1800s to today. Also, 6:30 p.m.-8 p.m. on Feb. 15, the museum will host “History Café: Paying Tribute to Seattle’s Black Landmarks and their Namesakes.” Open daily. 

Museum of Pop Culture, Seattle 

Contact High: A Visual History of Hip-Hop

Examines the evolution of hip-hop through 170 images of the most influential artists.  Also, MoPOP’s permanent collection contains early rap battle fliers, Tupac Shakur manuscripts, Flavor magazines and costumes from Sha-Rock, The Notorious B.I.G and MF DOOM. 

Open daily except Wednesdays. 

Northwest African American Museum, Seattle

On Feb. 16, from 6:30 p.m.-7:30 p.m., NAAM will have an in-person conversation with Damion Thomas, Ph.D, curator of sports, Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture.  On Feb. 12, there will be an interactive storytime, “Jake Makes a World,” exploring the creative adventures of the young Jacob Lawrence. On Feb. 15 and 22, NAAM will host writing workshops for high school students. 

Washington State History Museum, Tacoma

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (permanent free digital exhibition) 

Experience Martin Luther King Jr.’s historic visit to Seattle in 1961 through images, videos and oral histories. Open Thursday-Sunday. 

Buffalo Soldier Museum, Tacoma

See artifacts, documents and images exploring the African American experience and contributions in the U.S. military from 1866-1944. Open Wednesday and Saturday, or by appointment. 

Bonus: February is Seattle Museum month. Stay in one of 70 Seattle hotels during the month of February and get half-price admission to several area museums and attractions. Participating hotels include AAA Washington discount partners Best Western, Hilton and Hyatt hotels, among many others. Find the full list of AAA Washington discounts here.

Travel Tip: Some public libraries offer free admission to museums. For example, Tacoma Public Library offers free passes to four local museums and two regional gardens; and the Seattle Public Library offers free passes to participating museums. Check with a library near you.  


Road Trip Tips

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Save with AAA member discounts: AAA membership gives you access to exclusive entertainment discounts nationwide.

—Compiled by Victor Whitman

Top photo is of Oscar Howe’s “Sioux Woman Grooming.” Photo: Portland Art Museum

Interested in planning your next road trip with AAA Washington? Call your travel agent directly or your nearest AAA store to get pro tips, TripTik maps, and more. Find more Pacific Northwest scenic drives and road trips.

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