All posts in “Community”

Drop-in during Kusama: Infinite Reflections

All summer long we’re activating your creative side with free drop-in studio hours every Sunday at SAM. Led by local artists and designed for all ages, the art activities taking place between 11 am and 1 pm will touch on themes and ideas behind Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors and how the artwork in the exhibition connects to their own work and process. We’ve asked each of our teaching artists to share what about the Kusama exhibition has inspired them and the art activities that they will be leading.

This Sunday, July 30, features artist Junko Yamamoto.

There are a few things that I can relate to Kusama’s work conceptually and aesthetically.  She is interested in the relationships between people and the world by creating infinite imagery of nature and our society. Kusama’s Phalli’s Field has been one my favorite installations of hers since I was young. Organic, white, phallic-shaped soft sculptures with red polka dots in a reflection mirror room create an infinite reality that gives me a chill. All of her paintings are incredible, but I’m always mesmerized by her older paintings from the 1950s to ’70’s. Repetitions of scale- or cell-like small round shapes continues almost outside of the frames. Both installations and paintings can relate to my repetitive shapes and textures.

In my work, I explore space, memories, the space between atoms, cells, between people, objects, air, stars, water and sky; the cosmic glue which holds us and the universe together. My repetitive imageries are often inspired by cell divisions or clusters of atoms. Everything that exists in this world is part of us, we are all related to one another, just like how small atoms accumulated to forms entire universe. Unity, as a whole, is my foundation.

Celeste Cooning, August 3 & 20

In the spirit of Kusama’s process-based studio practice, we’re going to make collaborative cut paper “Infinity Nets.” As this collective infinity net grows into an immersive installation, elements of form, movement, positive/negative space, light, and shadow will all come into play. 

I feel a kinship to Kusama’s emphatic nature and I strongly identify with the inherent necessity to keep creating throughout one’s life. Since childhood, I’ve always sought solace through the act of art making. Come explore the resonant power of repetition and accumulation using scissors as your drawing tool!  

Regina Schilling, August 27, September 3 & 10

Kusama has artistically given me permission to create my own world and live inside it infinitely. As a painter, I’ve been exploring invisibility using large colorful canvases to create worlds where the invisible is seen. Despite hiding, the women in my paintings are still there. It’s a world where women, daisies, jack-o-lanterns and textile structures can all exist together. Apart from working on this series, I began the publication, Hey Lady, a collection of art honoring one woman per issue. In two years, it has included hundreds of artists internationally, highlighted eight crucial women in various fields, held exhibits around the country, and created a world where women experience a creative outlet that is nurtured, validated, and celebrated. With my workshop at SAM, you’ll be able create your own world exploring your reflection, obsessions and inspiration from the exhibit by making and filling up a handmade zine!

Ellen Ziegler, July 16 & 23

My Vermilion Series is a collection of drawings searching out the interface between the psyche and its influences, between inner and outer worlds. The drawings result from my visceral responses to sensation, emotion, and reaction. The use of the color vermilion began as an investigation of childhood memory and has morphed into a practice of working with only this one color for three years. The drawings are made with acrylic forms painted on paper, which I then draw on with white marker. The circular marks transform the flat forms to three dimensions. I intend to suggest the body with its urges, transformations, and ultimate transcendences.

In a time when we are increasingly distanced from our corporeal selves by technology and stress, this work attempts to bring to the surface powerful and peculiar sensations, emotions, and reactions, so we may act authentically in this shifting world.

The projects we’re doing in the Drop-In Studio begin with the circle or dot, echoing Kusama’s extravagant use of that form. Her focus originated with the hallucinations that caused her to exteriorize her obsessions and fears. Many artists have this phenomenon in common: what would seem to be a departure from sanity or normalcy comes to be the fertile origin of our work. Standing in the center of a black field of tar paper (9’ x 20’), participants draw circles with themselves as the center. Making a mark of chalk on tarpaper is immensely satisfying and is a visceral moment of art made with the body. At the worktables, we’ll use black paper to draw on with opaque markers and circle templates, creating their own take-away artwork.

Images: Manifestation, 2017, Junko Yamamoto, 36 x 36 in., oil on canvas. Still Here, 2016, Regina Schilling, oil on canvas, 4 ft x 4 ft., photo: Regina Schilling.Over the River, 2016, Celeste Cooning, installation, screenprint on hand cut Tyvek, paint, mylar, and light. Untitled (vermilion), Ellen Ziegler, 2017, acrylic and white marker on paper, 15 x 11 in.
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Community Gallery: Color is Everything

A window is what I wanted. A gap in the wall where light could come in and color the dim room of my world and hopefully the world of those around me. But how do you crack open a wall of bias and expectation? How do you get to the human behind the facade? The goal with Color is Everything was this very idea; to find the bridge from one person to another, a path through the forest of differences so we can embrace what makes the individual truly and beautifully individual. Longing, pain, love, desire; So much binds us to one another beyond things like religion, gender choice, or race. I wanted to photograph individuals that not only celebrated what made them unique but even further—used that as a source of their power. But differences scare people. So often we see something unlike what we understand and it is seen as dumb, threatening or foolish. That is why I attempted to open the window of joy in all the people who participated in the project. I wanted their joy to shine brighter than anything an observer could find bias against. Because in a time of cultural tension, amongst all the things that bind us, why not choose joy to let some light in?

Behind the Scenes shooting Color is Everything

To do so was not hard. It was a simple recipe of music, dancing, and kindness. Lindsey Watkins helped choose the wardrobe from the outfits the individuals brought from their own closets. From that we chose color combinations in the backdrops. It wasn’t until later that I was honored to be put in touch with Imani Sims who took the project to the next step of tapping into the actual recipe of what gave everyone their own personal joy. When given the opportunity to exhibit the project I knew that scale was important. Joy, no matter what the recipe, is not small, it is a force writ large against the darkness and I wanted the joy of these amazing individuals to be imposing and fully immersive.

Color is Everything installed in the Community Gallery

This project was co-curated by David Rue and Priya Frank of Seattle Art Museum.

– Stanton Stephens, Photographer

Color is Everything is on view through July 30, 2017 in the Community Corridor Art Gallery. Stop by to see work by these large-scale photo portraits for free through the end of the month!

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Docents Defined: Celeste Ericsson

Get more intimate with SAM’s collection by becoming a docent! Docents will learn about our global collection of artwork and then share their knowledge and passion for art with a diverse range of visitors. No experience necessary! SAM docents have a wide range of reference points and experiences that they each bring to the art in SAM’s collection and that is what makes our public tours so unique. Making room for new perspectives is how we continue to offer engaging and informational tours throughout the year. Here’s a chance to get to know Celeste Ericsson, just one of our many docents who volunteers their time at the museum. Are you interested in becoming a SAM docent and leading tours of the museum? Apply now! Applications are accepted through July 12 and new docents start training in fall 2017!

SAM: Tell us about yourself. Why did you become a docent?

Celeste Ericsson: I’ve always loved art museums ever since I was a child growing up in New York City. My favorite New York museums were/are the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Cloisters. I have always been interested in history in general, and in symbolism/iconography. As an illustrator and a graphic designer, a knowledge of art history and art movements both inspires me and helps me to communicate in my artwork.

What’s the best part of being a docent?

I get to share my interests with others, and I love doing it with kids. I’m constantly adding their insights to my tours. I do like talking with adults also. In order to communicate clearly, I have to figure out the most important things I believe about art and art philosophy. And in order to make things relevant I need to figure out the connections and the contexts for the art I’m touring so that the pieces do not become disembodied objects. In other words my docent work clarifies my own understanding of art.

What work of art is your favorite to tour?

The works of art that are my favorite to tour definitely differ from the works I’m personally drawn to. I’m drawn to the Archaic Greek Antefix with Medusa or Akio Takamori’s Blue Princess. For art to tour I liked Cai Guo-Qiang’s Inopportune Stage One, definitely a favorite before it was deinstalled last winter. Aesthetically, I found it horrifying, but it tells the story of art so clearly. I can’t think of even one class that it did not connect to, or who failed to figure out the story of a car flipping and exploding.

I’m finding that kids are really drawn to John Grade’s Middle Fork also. My favorite description from a third grader is that it looks like a Jenga game.

What’s your most memorable touring experience?

My favorite touring experience lately was Jacob Lawrence’s Migration Series for kindergarten, no less. I hadn’t expected the kids to get it, but the themes of having to leave home and everything familiar, and the theme of fairness really resonated with them. They created the most amazing drawings afterwards. A couple were very personal, and the kids were kind and appreciative of each other’s creations.

What advice do you have for people considering applying to the docent program?

This is a hard one to answer, but I’d say to be in it for how art can be inspiring. Really try to find those paths of wonder and fun for the kids. Discover your own genuine voice. Finally, it’s great to not take oneself too seriously, and to have a sense of humor.

– Kelsey Donahue, Museum Educator, School & Educator Programs

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Summer at SAM Celebrates 10 Years of the Olympic Sculpture Park

It’s the 10th anniversary of the Olympic Sculpture Park and Summer at SAM is bringing you entertainment and activities around art at the park, all summer long. Mingle, make, and move until the sun goes down over the Puget Sound. Inspired by SAM’s special exhibitions, Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors at the Seattle Art Museum and installations by Christopher Paul Jordan and Spencer Finch at the Olympic Sculpture Park, Summer at SAM explore place-making, cultural confluences, and learning from our local environment.

Like the sculpture park itself, all Summer at SAM programs are free, open to the public, and all-ages. So check us out Thursdays and Saturdays, July 13 through August 31 and get active in your city with concerts, art making, food trucks, and fitness. In their own words, get to know two of Summer at SAM’s partner organizations for events such as the Kickoff next Thursday, July 13 from 6–8 pm produced in partnership with Black & Tan Hall and our Saturday art activity led by artists of the Lion’s Main Art Collective.

Black & Tan Hall, is the premier cultural event space that the south end has been waiting for. Its unique business model with over 20 community partners has given birth to a consensus-run establishment that prioritizes healthy, delicious food, fair pay to artists, and quality events. We want to give you a reason to dress up for a night on the town.

Our upcoming partnership with SAM gives Seattle a small taste of what Black & Tan Hall will be producing when our doors open at the end of the summer. Chef Tarik Abdullah will be serving his eclectic North African inspired dishes made with fresh Northwestern ingredients on the lawn, while bands like New Triumph, Peace & Red Velvet, and the Mockingbirds light up the stage with hip-hop afro-caribbean beats, and DJ Toya B keeps the crowd lively throughout the evening.

Black & Tan Hall will be open for breakfast during the week, brunch on the weekends, and dinner with select music, theatre, film, and dance events. We are also available for private rentals, and co-producing opportunities. We are “the people’s” establishment for diversity, community, creativity, and simply a good time!

– Black & Tan Hall

Lion’s Main Art Collective is a Seattle-based community of queer and trans artists that showcases innovative interdisciplinary art. Participating artists are excited to present From the Foundation, an installation created from fabric and wood exploring private and public experiences of home. Combining screen printing, photography, painting, text, and zines, this project is takes a cumulative approach by gathering images and reflections from individuals in the LGBTQ+ community. Trinkets, pictures, recipes, and stories are screen printed on the walls entwining personal experiences into a communal web.

Lion’s Main is excited to partner with SAM and bring together communities through visibility and engagement. Park goers are invited to share their own stories and reflections. What does home feel/look/taste like? What do you keep from past homes? What memories and sensations do you associate with it? Visitors are invited to write their experiences on fabric which will be sewn together to create a “ceiling.”

Participating Lion’s Main artists

Sofya Belinskaya, a Ukrainian-born visual artist, creates works on paper that oscillate between dreams and reality. She is compelled by the void, magical realism, and emotive narratives. She is a teaching artist and organizer based in Seattle.

Jax Braun is a poet/writer, biologist, crafter, and performance artist. Their works are informed through the structure of biological worlds and dwell on interpreting personal histories and experiences.

KEM_C is a Seattle-based printmaker/tapemaker/clubscum, specializing in etchings, screenprints, & VHS tapes. Ask her about a cozier alternative to safe/r spaces.

Sequoia Day is a Seattle-raised queer arts organizer, photographer, painter, and full spectrum doula. They are drawn to the soft places that exist in people and home. Their work often touches on care, debris, and maintenance in the home space, and what spills forth from the places we build and inhabit.

Emma Kates-Shaw is a fiber/found object/tattoo/paint/pen/pencil worker, fascinated by light, time, space, and the beauty of the early early morning.

Markel Uriu is an interdisciplinary artist in Seattle. Her work explores the quiet intimacy of inner worlds, feminine labor, impermanence, and the unseen. Drawing from mythology and rituals, she explores these concepts through ephemeral botanical narratives and two-dimensional work.

Established in 2013, Lion’s Main Art Collective is a non-profit organization curating multidisciplinary events and festivals, including Transience at King Street Station (2016), QTONE Shorts in collaboration with TWIST: Seattle Queer Film Festival (2016), and Othello Quartz Festival at John C. Little Park (2016). They have received funding from the Office of Arts & Culture and the Pride Foundation. Past partnerships include Henry Art Gallery, Gender Justice League, Gay City, and Three Dollar Bill Cinema.

– Sofya Belinskaya

Photo: Robert Wade. Photo: Tarik Abdullah.
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Support Art for All: Vote Yes for Proposition 1–Access for All

Proposition 1–Access for All is on the August ballot and it could have big implications for SAM. If you’re just becoming familiar with what Access for All is, here’s the proposition in a nut shell: If approved by voters, the measure will provide increased funding for arts, science, and heritage organizations in our communities—expanding access to arts and music in our public schools, and to diverse cultural experiences throughout King County. You can find more in-depth information on the Access for All website.

In line with our mission to connect people with art, Access for All funding for SAM will help support educational programming and museum visits for school children from around the county. It would also allow us to offer free or reduced-cost museum admission for more lower-income families and seniors.

With Access for All funding, SAM could

  • Provide more free admission opportunities for all King County residents
  • Increase the number of free and reduced-cost educational programs
  • Make all museum tours free for King County public schools, students, and educators
  • Greatly expand bus subsidies for King County public schools visiting SAM
  • Advance the museum’s equity initiatives, including expansion of its work with under-resourced communities
  • Amplify SAM’s impact beyond its walls through increased partnerships and collaborations with other King County cultural organizations

The deadline to vote is August 1 and you should get your ballot in the mail on July 12.  Please consider voting yes for Access for All.  But don’t take it from us—our community partners feel strongly about Prop. 1–Access for All passing as well and below you can hear from two of them.

“When we began our partnership with SAM over four years ago, we were responding to the families in our schools who had shared their interest in the arts. Over the years, parent voices and staff and student engagement has helped increase the value of the arts in our school community. Enrichment opportunities, such as the arts, has helped to highlight the artistic strengths and perspectives of our students.”

– Rebekah Kim, Elementary Principal

“Our staff, many of whom had never been to the Seattle Art Museum, witnessed the empowerment and beauty of Kehinde Wiley: A New Republic in 2016 and, perhaps for the first time, experienced the importance of sharing this opportunity of art viewing with our students. SAM made it possible for our students to attend the Kehinde Wiley exhibition and the students stood in silence—in awe—at identifying with Wiley’s visions of hope. In 2017 this connection was deepened even further with Jacob Lawrence: The Migration Series. Every student in our school experienced the exhibition at Seattle Art Museum. The art of Jacob Lawrence gave many of our students a deep connection to their own stories, their own migrations, and their own way to create the next panel in the Great Migration story. As a long time educator, I am privy to what some call the opportunity gap but I prefer the term of privilege gap. In our wonderful city of creative dreamers, thinkers, and doers, arts education has long been used as a golden carrot rewarded to those with access. Students receiving education in what is referred to as lower performing schools have experienced a severe lack of opportunities to even the basic right of an imagination. Without fostering possibilities through imagination, how can we even begin to address equity issues? Seattle should be leading the way for all our students to see themselves as the next generation of creative dreamers, thinkers, and doers. Creating opportunities for hope is core to my mission as an arts educator. This is an impossible task without the help and support of our community partners and all our students deserve equal access to dreaming of creating their own realities.”

– Julie Trout, Teacher, Seattle Schools

And if hearing from the teachers and principals who value SAM as a crucial resource for arts education isn’t enough to make you want to vote yes, here’s Bill Nye The Science Guy for Prop. 1–Access for All!

Tell us what SAM means to you and your community and how Prop. 1–Access for All could positively impact the future of access to arts in the comments!

Photo: Jen Au
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Docents Defined: Nhi Nguyen

Are you interested in becoming more intimate with SAM’s collection? Our docents receive training on the artwork from all over the world hanging in our galleries and get to share their love and knowledge with a diverse range of visitors. Don’t worry, you don’t need to be an educator or well versed in art history, new docents start training in fall 2017! SAM docents come from many different backgrounds with an incredible range of experience. Having a group of docents that each bring their unique perspective to SAM is how we offer engaging and informational tours. Find out about Nhi Nguyen, just one of our many docents who volunteers their time at the museum. Maybe being a docent appeals to you? Apply now to the docent program. Applications are accepted through July 12.

SAM: Tell us about yourself. Why did you become a docent?

Nhi Nguyen: I’ve always had a love for art, but didn’t know anything about it. My degrees are in social work, psychology, and math, and I work in public policy! When I moved home to Seattle after a 3-year stint in DC, I was looking for a way to reconnect to the Seattle community, make some friends, learn something new, and have fun along the way. The docent program was a perfect fit!

What’s the best part of being a docent? 

I love the constant learning. SAM does a great job of training its docents on its permanent collections as well as on the excellent special exhibitions that come through the museum. I’ve learned about many types of art, from ancient aboriginal to abstract expressionism. I have also been able to practice my presentation skills in relaying the most interesting stories about this art to the public. These skills have helped me in my professional life as well.

What work of art is your favorite to tour?

My favorite piece currently on view is Katharina Fritsch’s Mann und Maus. It’s great to see initial reactions to this piece, as it can appear funny and playful. Kids especially like this one. However, closer observations can reveal a darker meaning, depending on you and your life experiences.

What’s your most memorable touring experience?

When I first began touring, I tried to make a connection between several works of art that dealt with alternative realities with a South Park episode I had just watched, called “Imaginationland.” In the episode, the kids of South Park get taken to a land of their imagination, where Mickey Mouse, Santa, and Jesus live. Conflict arises when the bad parts of Imaginationland appear, including the Joker, Freddy Krueger, and Satan, and war ensues. While I thought it was a pretty funny and culturally relevant comparison, no one on the tour had even heard of the show! After some explanation of the story and premise, it ended up working out. I even got some people to say they would check the show out. Who knew that an art tour would help recruit more South Park fans!

What advice do you have for people considering applying to the docent program? 

While it’s a bigger time commitment than other volunteer positions at SAM, being a docent is extremely rewarding. Not only do you get the personal benefit of learning about art for free, but you also become a part of a community that supports one another and cares about helping the public learn and reflect on life through art.

– Kelsey Donahue, Museum Educator, School & Educator Programs

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Deepwater Ladies

Drawing Practice: Bellingham National Juried Art Exhibition and Awards

At the invitation of our colleagues at the Whatcom Museum in Bellingham, WA, Catharina Manchanda, SAM’s Jon and Mary Shirley Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art, juried this year’s Belingham National, on view now through September 10. Barbara Matilsky, Curator of Art at Whatcom, describes the biennial art exhibition and award as relatively new. “The Whatcom Museum’s first biennial was inaugurated in 2015. Patricia Leach, the museum’s director, envisioned the Bellingham National as a way to bring the rich variety of art created around the country to our region. Although the museum is committed to supporting Pacific Northwest art, it has increasingly embraced a wider, cultural scope,” says Matilsky. “The Bellingham National has attracted the attention of  Washington artists, which means that their work is well represented here. Community reaction has been as varied as the works of art on display. One thing that I have noticed: The exhibition challenges people to think about art in new ways, which is ultimately a good thing. It also offers the invited curator a unique opportunity to explore ideas related to a particular theme or medium of her/his choice.”

This year’s call for submissions focused on drawing, an activity and mode of expression that seems overdue in light of our ever-increasing attachment to electronic devices. Catharina Manchanda’s interest in exploring how contemporary artists are approaching the medium is at once a reaction to new media art forms and an acceptance of drawing that utilizes new media. “As we are clicking and tapping away, drawing and writing are becoming increasingly rare. Drawing has an immediacy and material quality that registers differently under these digital conditions. Its very ‘slowness’ becomes significant at a time when a flood of imagery and information keeps shortening our attention spans. From a more linguistic and conceptual vantage point, drawing connections, drawing on memory and history, and drawing understood as notation and trace, opens distinct possibilities for artists,” Manchanda states. “Not surprisingly, artists submitted work in a variety of mediums—from pencil drawings to annotated collages, videos, and sound recordings.”

Matilsky embraced what visitors may find a somewhat unorthodox perspective on drawing. “I share Catharina’s expansive view of drawing and was delighted that she was able to identify artworks that further pushed the boundaries of the medium. The sound and video pieces that she selected surprised me and added to the complexity of the exhibition.”

Featuring over 60 works from 29 artists around the country, below Catharina Manchanda offers a glimpse into a selection of the works on view. Get yourself to Bellingham and see this spectrum of artistic positions with and about drawing.

Margie Livingston, Seattle, WA

Dragged Blue Drawing

The artist arrives at these lyrical compositions with controlled chance operations. Heavy sheets of paper are tinged with color and then dragged on the studio floor or the street where the movement creates a chance image. Embedded in the surfaces are dust and dirt, portions are rubbed and worn and yet the overall drawings have a quiet lyricism.

Kelly Bjork, Seattle, WA

Splayed Produce

Kelly Bjork’s quiet interiors are beautifully rendered with an eye for crisp color and form. Embedded in her compositions and titles is a sparkling sense of humor—Tiger Overhead and Splayed Produce project an element of danger and adventure that’s there for you to discover.

Lou Watson, Portland, OR

The artist takes the most ordinary traffic patterns and movements as occasion for artistic intervention. For the Bellingham National, she chose a spot along I-5 and ascribed a musical note to each of the lanes. Every time a car went past a traffic sign, it triggered a tone—a little car a short note, a long truck a longer one. With this, she composed a minimalist score from the monotonous back and forth of highway traffic. The movement of the cars along the road is linear like a drawing and her paper prints give insights into her process.

Masha Sha, Boulder, CA

overthinkingthinkingover

Sha’s vivid, large-scale pencil or crayon drawings spell out phrases that invite free association. Whether you see her bright red  “New Now” today, tomorrow or in ten years, it will always be the now of the moment. Drawn with intensity, we may interpret that now in personal, communal, social, or political terms and it will mean different things to each of us.

Kirk Yamahira, Seattle, WA

untitled [stretched]

Kirk Yamahira deconstructs the fabric of a  canvas—he carefully lifts individual threads—to arrive at abstract lines and patterns that read like three-dimensional drawings. In some instances an additional tilt of the stretcher results in objects that are utterly transformed.

Images: Deepwater Ladies, Kelly Bjork, 2016, 7 x 9 in. Dragged Blue Drawing, Margie Livingston, 2016, watercolor and mixed media on paper, string, sheet size: 15 x 11 in. Splayed Produce, Kelly Bjork, 2016, Gouache and pencil, 19 x 15 in. View of I-5/Mt Ashland, 11am on a Thursday, video courtesy of the artist. overthinkingthinkingover, Masha Sha, graphite on paper, 48 x 148 in. untitled [stretched], Kirk Yamahira, 2017, acrylic, pencil, unweaved, deconstructed on canvas, 67 x 67 in.
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Karthik Jaganathan

Docents Defined: Karthik Jaganathan

SAM is now recruiting new docents to start training in fall 2017. You don’t need to be an art historian or a former teacher to apply! In fact, SAM docents have a variety of interests and experiences. Having a diverse group of docents is how we’re able to offer tours that are engaging to all visitors. Read below and find out more about some of the docents who volunteer their time at the museum.

Want to join Karthik Jaganathan in connecting art to life? Apply now to the docent program. Applications are accepted through July 12.

SAM: Tell us about yourself. Why did you become a docent?

Karthik Jaganathan: I grew up in Tamil Nadu, a state at the southeastern tip of India, across the Bay of Bengal from Sri Lanka. When I graduated from college, I wanted to travel—I’d never been more than 500 miles from my home town. I applied to graduate school at Purdue University. Purdue was a shock weather-wise. I grew accustomed to the cold, but the snow lingered in Indiana even after winter. After graduating, I was ready to move to a more temperate climate. I loved the beauty of Seattle (although the rain sometimes gets to me). I’ve now worked at Microsoft for 15 years, mostly developing security products for Windows, Bing, and Azure systems. I like to stay active and since moving to Seattle I’ve been involved in the Rotary and the Junior Chamber of Commerce, taught yoga, and even tended bar at the Jet City Improv. I wanted to learn more about art and was looking for something different to be involved with, which is what drew me to SAM’s docent program. I’ve been a docent since 2007.

What’s the best part of being a docent?

I like having the opportunity to attend special events when I’m leading private tours. The museum is a great place to make friends, too! I’ve enjoyed getting to know many of the museum’s security guards.

What work of art is your favorite to tour?

My artistic taste has been evolving. As a docent I get to tour works that range from old masters to modern art. Modern art wasn’t something that I appreciated when I first became a docent, but the Picasso exhibition was one of the first things I toured—it was my entryway into modern art.

What’s your most memorable touring experience?

I just finished leading public tours of Jacob Lawrence: The Migration Series. This was one of my favorite exhibitions. Some weekends visitors were waiting in long lines to see this work!

What advice do you have for people considering applying to the docent program?

You’ll have the chance to get to know all of SAM’s collection, which consists of more than 24,000 objects!

Kelsey Donahue, Museum Educator, School & Educator Programs

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Lekha Bhargavi

Volunteer Spotlight: Lekha Bhargavi

SAM’s 469 volunteers bring the museum to life in many ways. In return, we want to share a little bit of the lives of our volunteers with you! Volunteers at SAM lead tours, check coats, staff the information desk, and more. Our monthly volunteer spotlight continues with Lekha Bhargavi, a SAM volunteer since 2015.

SAM: What is your current role?

Lekha Bhargavi: I volunteer as a  SAMbassador and currently I’m also the treasurer for SAM Volunteer Association .

How long have you been volunteering at SAM?

I have been volunteering with SAM since October 2015.

How did you become a SAMbassador?

I moved back to Seattle in early 2015 and found a place close to the Olympic Sculpture Park. During one of my first weeks discovering my neighborhood I happened to take a docent tour at the park that was fascinating. Unfortunately, the docent could not show us Neukom Vivarium, since it wasn’t open on that day. Volunteers keep the vivarium open. I went home to look up volunteer openings at SAM and it has been one of the best impulsive thing I ever did. I have been back to the vivarium multiple times since then; we have some amazing volunteers there.

If you had to give only one reason, what do you most like about volunteering at SAM?

The countless opportunities to encounter beauty in people and pieces alike.

Why is volunteering at SAM important to you?  

My day job, while creative, is as far removed from the classical definition of art as one could possibly get. SAM allows me to explore an area of myself that I don’t get a chance to do otherwise. The few hours I spend volunteering gives me a disproportionate amount of pleasure.

What is your favorite piece of art in SAM’s collection, and why?

That’s a really hard question. I have many many favorites, but one that comes to mind today is the “Smoky Sunrise, Astoria Harbor” by Cleveland Rockwell. I find myself going back there a lot to stare at the warm colors, the life on the sea; the quiet of the morning seems tangible when I look at that piece—a quiet gently broken by people on the boats and birds beginning their day.

When not at SAM, what do you do for fun?

I enjoy a lot of things—I love to read,  travel, go to Town Hall lectures, take long walks, and discover the history of places around me. I recently decided to get back to trivia nights (with Catherine, who shares my volunteer shift) and though I find myself woefully, painfully ignorant, I plan to do more of these. I think they are loads of fun! Oh! I also went to my first opera this year, thanks to Laurie, another SAMbassador. Discovering the opera has been a sheer delight.

What is a simple hack, trick, or advice that you’ve used over time to help you better fulfill your role?

I liked the piece of advice my mentor gave me when I first started volunteering; to pick a favorite area in the museum and learn everything about it over time. I chose the porcelain room—though I am a long ways away from knowing everything about the 1,000 pieces in there, I find that I can engage better when I am there. I like walking around the floors and knowing what changed, what was added so that I can help direct our patrons better. I love learning from my fellow volunteers—everyone’s got such a unique perspective and method for their shifts. The great thing is, I’m still learning.

– Chris Karamatas, SAM Volunteer Association Vice Chair

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