On October 12th, after more than a decade of planning and three years of construction and collection transport, the Burke Museum reopened in its new home in Seattle on the University of Washington campus.
According to Kathryn Bunn-Marcuse, the Burke’s Curator of Northwest Native Art and Director of the Bill Holm Center, the new Burke truly emphasizes collections research, placing it “at the forefront of the visitor experience with galleries integrated with visible collection storage, working labs, and interactive learning spaces.” This new “inside-out” perspective allows visitors to observe behind-the-scenes research, cataloguing of new creations and acquisitions, and active workshops by master artists.
More of the museum’s significant heritage collections are on view than ever before. The inaugural exhibition in the new Northwest Native Art gallery—supported by a grant from the American Art Program—was co-curated by six Pacific Northwest Native women who represent diverse artistic backgrounds and generational experiences: weaver and basket maker Betty Pasco (Suquamish); basket maker Pat Courtney Gold (Wasco); weaver and watercolor painter Evelyn Vanderhoop (Haida); carver, painter, textile artist, and jewelry designer Lou-ann Neel (Kwakwaka’wakw); multimedia artist Alison Bremner Marks (Tlingit); and mixed-media artist RYAN! Feddersen (Okanagan and Lakes).
In developing what is the first of many rotating exhibitions, Bunn-Marcuse asked the artists to take the lead because, as she describes it, “in addition to being talented artists in their own right, they are also dedicated historians of the artistic practices from their communities...who are intensely knowledgeable about the full range of artwork made by both men and women on the Coast in current and past generations.”
Collectively, the co-curators decided to focus on how the arts are a communicator and carrier of history and identity. Each artist selected objects from the Burke Museum’s collections and created new work, inspired by her reflections on artistic heritage, that sit in conversation with them.
This collaborative process has given new life and perspective to the historical collection, resulting in an experience that is meaningful to both Indigenous community members and the greater public.