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.)
The Burke Museum
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.
National Nordic Museum
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.
Northwest African American Museum
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.
Museum of Glass
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)
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, Old City Hall
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.
Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture ($1 AAA member discount off regular admissions)
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.
Yakima Valley Museum
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.
Portland Art Museum
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.
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
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
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
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.
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—Compiled by Victor Whitman
—Top photo is of Oscar Howe’s “Sioux Woman Grooming.” Photo: Portland Art Museum