Washington Park


By Sarah Anne Lloyd

Wednesday morning, Seattle Art Museum (SAM) broke ground on a long-awaited expansion to Seattle Asian Art Museum (SAAM), located in the middle of Volunteer Park in Capitol Hill.

The art deco building was the original home of SAM (one A) but became SAAM (two As) after SAM moved to its downtown location in the early 1990s. It’s now home to a large collection of Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Indian, Himalayan, and southeast Asian art.

“For the last 20 years, we’ve known the day would arrive when we needed to restore this building, a museum that houses one of the most important Asian art collections in the country,” said SAM director Kimerly Rorschach. “That day has come.”

That day arguably came a while ago. The building was first gifted to the city in 1933, and and still has the original heating system—and is in need of seismic upgrades, a new HVAC system with cooling and humidity controls, a loading dock, and a freight elevator, not just for visitor safety, but for preserving the museum’s art collection.

The museum’s 13,650-square-foot, more modern-looking expansion, which includes 3,600 square feet stretching eastward into park land, will include new space for galleries, offices, meetings, and studios.

Courtesy of Seattle Art Museum

In exchange for a new 55-year lease on the property and some zoning exemptions—technically, Volunteer Park is zoned single family—the museum will provide an estimated $338,725 in public benefits. That includes donation-based admission and signs clearly instructing that donations of any amount grant entry, plus a four free days each month. The museum is also subject to some benchmarks, like hours of operation and outreach programs.

The whole renovation will cost $54 million, with $21 million coming from the city. The museum’s $33 million will be helped along by federal historic building tax credits—the building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2016—and fundraising.

LMN Architects leads the expansion design team, with landscape design by Walker Macy, in close collaboration with SAM and Seattle Parks and Recreation.

Courtesy of Seattle Art Museum

After years of neighborhood controversy, the expansion gained unanimous approval from the Seattle City Council back in January. Leading up to that, a group called Protect Volunteer Park had taken issue with the plan to expand the museum’s footprint, claiming it will disrupt the views and original vision of the Olmsted park. By the end of the process, though, the group seemed resigned, with one spokesperson telling the Seattle Times it was a “done deal.”

Syndicated from

After First Viewing Shinto blessing ceremony on March 4th, the Seattle Japanese Garden is now open for the 2018 season. Visitors can now enjoy the Garden in the Washington Park Arboretum from noon until 5 p.m. on Mondays in March, and from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday. Hours extend until 6 p.m. in April, and 7 p.m. May through August. Admission is $4-8.

The opening ceremony started with representatives from Seattle Parks and Recreation offering a brief welcome to guests, followed by remarks from representatives of the Arboretum Foundation; the partner organizations that operate the Garden. Then, Reverend Koichi Barrish from the Tsubaki Grand Shrine proceeded with the First Viewing blessing ceremony.

As the first religion practiced in Japan (according to the Reverend), Shintoism is a very old practice based on the belief that spirit animates all living things. Therefore, this First Viewing blessing is meant to honor the spirit living in the garden’s water, trees and stones, which is known as kami.

By chanting and using an altar of offerings, the Reverend purified the surrounding energy. He asked visitors to unite with him in the ceremony by bowing during special parts of the ritual. There were three guests of honor who offered a camellia branch called tamagushi, to bless the new year. After all guests were given the opportunity to make a wish, Rev. Barrish splashed aromatic sake in four directions to conclude the ceremony.

“May the ceremony bring good fortune to the garden and everyone who visits it this year,” said Skip Vonckx, Japanese Garden Committee Chair, in his opening remarks.

With St. Patrick’s Day right around the corner, there’s no better time to celebrate the beauty and depth of the Irish culture, and Seattle Center’s Festal is gearing up to do just that!

Head to Seattle Center on Saturday, March 17th and Sunday, March 18th and find a serious taste of the Emerald Isle right here in the heart of in the Emerald City. Festal’s Irish Festival will bring to life a multifaceted, in-depth adventure through Ireland, its history and traditions, no passport necessary.

Enjoy a fun and fascinating exploration of Irish cultural heritage, past and present, through visual arts, live performance, games, activities, and of course, food! Explore the market place featuring Irish handicrafts, live Irish music and that famous and oh-so-impressive Irish step dancing.

Do you have the luck of the Irish? Find out by tracing your own roots in geology workshops (yes! That’s at the festival!), and learn a bit of the Celtic language while you’re at it. The festival also promises Irish movies and short films, cultural exhibits and live demonstrations and maybe even a few Irish celebrities!


Festal is a series of multi-cultural events presented by and at the Seattle Center each year. Now in its 21st year, Festal continues to shine a light on the beauty and majesty of cultures across the globe by showcasing their rich and complex traditions, histories, art, music, dance, food and much more. Festal’s Irish Festival is presented in partnership with the Irish Heritage Club of Seattle.


Whether you’re looking to learn more about your own heritage, wanting to learn more about Ireland and its culture in general, or you’re simply tired of leprechauns and green beer and looking for a more authentic experience, Festal’s Irish Festival is sure to be a fun and fabulous way to spend your St. Patty’s Day weekend.

Seattle Center Festál
Irish Festival
March 17-18, 2018
Armory Main Level

By Daniel Beekman

Try to imagine building an asphalt trail through the exhibition halls of the Seattle Art Museum — wending your way around paintings and sculptures, or through the Burke Museum — dodging dinosaur bones, carvings and masks.

That’s what it was like to design and construct Washington Park Arboretum’s loop trail, which quietly opened to walkers, runners and cyclists in November. In laying 1.2 miles of pavement, the team building the trail took painstaking care to protect the arboretum’s 230-acre collection of 20,000 trees and other plants from around the world.

The meandering route, lined with 18 benches cast in a classic style from the 1939 New York World’s Fair, runs all the way from East Madison Street to the Graham Visitors Center between Lake Washington Boulevard East and the arboretum’s iconic Azalea Way.

“You can think about the arboretum as a living museum — that’s how we treat it,” said Fred Hoyt, interim director of the University of Washington Botanic Gardens, which manages the tree sanctuary in cooperation with Seattle Parks and Recreation.

The trail descends below Pacific Rim foliage, crosses over Arboretum Creek, stretches through a restored wetland and skirts past sturdy walnuts and oaks.

Ushering visitors into the park from East Madison Street and connecting with the existing Arboretum Drive to create an approximately 2-mile recreational loop, the $7.8 million trail presented parks project manager Garrett Farrell with a number of unique challenges.

Farrell had to avoid tree cutting wherever possible, work with botanical experts, contend with rainy weather and boggy terrain and rebid the project in order to make the budget work during a construction boom, scrapping concrete walls in favor of rockery.

Before breaking ground in 2016, the project’s team designed the trail six times on paper, plotted the route with stakes and poles and blew away a layer of soil to determine where there were important tree roots in harm’s way. Local company Ohno Construction was the contractor.

The team altered the route to work around some trees, moved others and turned those they had to cut into landscape elements and snags where wildlife can thrive.

Including trees planted in the arboretum and around Washington Park Playfield, the complex has gained seven new trees for every tree cut down, Farrell said.

“If we had been building a road, we would have been done a long time ago,” he said. “What we did was bob and weave through the arboretum’s collection.”

That precision was costly, eating up more than $1,000 per foot of pavement in a city where better schools and homeless shelters are needed. But the money in this case came from a mitigation fund for the Highway 520 bridge-replacement project.

“The new bridge is taking another bite out of the arboretum,” Farrell said.

Seward Park and Taylor Creek water projects in South Seattle are among other recipients of Highway 520 mitigation money, according to the state transportation department.

Hoyt says advocates reacted cautiously when the trail was proposed years ago, concerned about damage to trees and other environmental impacts.

The project included construction of a larger parking lot downhill from Azaela Way, adding asphalt in a part of the arboretum where drainage already was a problem.

But it also included the clearing away of blackberry bushes, the installation of bioswales and the daylighting and restoration of a section of Arboretum Creek.

Mallard ducks paddled there on a recent afternoon, soaking up rays of sunlight that reach the new stretch of trail with more intensity than along shady Arboretum Drive.

Three bridges with iron railings cross the creek, which had been buried underground, and the restoration work has opened up new east-west vistas across the arboretum. Even in the winter, the trail is getting a lot of use, Farrell said.

“This used to be an impenetrable blackberry thicket,” Farrell said. “Unless you were super able-bodied, this area was off-limits to you.”

Access is something Jane Stonecipher, Arboretum Foundation interim director, appreciates about the loop. The trail is giving new life to a neglected area and allowing older visitors, who can no longer use the arboretum’s dirt paths, to ride a tram through.

There were concerns that a bikeable trail parallel to Lake Washington Boulevard East would become a thruway for speedsters, so the route is purposefully sinuous.

Signs remind cyclists the speed limit is 10 mph, and Stonecipher believes they can coexist alongside the stroller-pushers, botanists and tree-huggers. A grand opening is planned for April 8.

“I like how we’re bringing different users to the arboretum,” she said. “People can come for the recreation and come back when they realize this is such a unique place.”

Syndicated from the Seattle Times. Featured photo source Ellen M. Banner/The Seattle Times.