New Wing Luke Asian Museum Opens

Grand openings at museums scare me. Crowds fill tiny galleries. Bobbing heads and jostling elbows cover the art. My experience at these events is less about the work and more about navigating through the swarms.

I hesitated to attend the public opening of the new Wing Luke Museum today. Even though I worked at the Museum for eight years in the 1990s and served on the Community Advisory Committee for the new Honoring Our Journey and Community Portrait Galleries, I was reluctant to show up. My friend Michelle Kumata, Exhibitions Manager, called this morning while I was planting succulents to encourage me to come. Since it started to rain making my gardening less pleasant, I made my way to the grand opening event.

Amazing Museum Both New and Old
The new Wing Luke is awe-inspiring. The historic East Kong Yick building built by Chinese American pioneers in 1910 was renovated by architect Rick Sundberg. The new double-story entrance and other parts of the renovated space, aptly described by Seattle Times Art Critic Sheila Farr as “part archaeology, part contemporary architecture” made me proud to be involved with this Museum.

Saya Moriyasu’s fantastic wind-chime sculpture of faces and bells called Sweet Hello is one of the new permanent public art works. Other notable installations are Susie Kozawa’s sound installation of ocean waves and immigrant voices in the light wells and Stewart Wong’s red cloud patterns floating in the community hall.

Natural light from Canton Alley fills the back of the intimate Tateuchi Story Theatre and adds to the dramatic presentation of the historic Nippon Kan curtain display.

Immersion Exhibitions Coming Soon
Not all the gallery spaces are complete. The George Tsutakawa Gallery’s inaugural show called George Tsutakawa: The Making of a Fountain, curated by Tracey Fugami, has fountain mock-ups yet to be installed. Similarly the new permanent exhibition Honoring Our Journey awaits media components and artifacts coming in the next few months.

Also opening to the public soon are the historic immersion galleries. I was able to go through these spaces on a private tour with Kumata and public art plan supervisor John D. Pai. The historic resonances of the lived-in rooms provide a contemplative respite from the crowds.

Within these spare places I had a moment to breathe away from jostling elbows and reflect on the lives of the Asian American pioneers who inhabited the building for a hundred years. Their spirit continues with the hundreds of volunteers who helped make the new Museum opening a success.

Have you visited the new Wing Luke? What do you think?

WLAM in the News