All posts in “For the Love of Art”

SAM Membership Goes Green: New Digital Cards!

Yesterday, SAM rolled out an exciting new era for members! With new digital membership cards we are reducing plastic and paper waste, increasing convenience, and saving museum resources, allowing us to put more of your membership contribution towards connecting art to life. All while offering the same great benefits—now available through your smartphone wallet.

It may take several days for you to receive the email with your digital membership card. Dual members and higher, you may not receive your second card at the same time. If you do not receive your digital membership card by Monday, November 11, please contact us.

Remember, using a digital card is an option! You can continue to use your plastic membership card or we can always verify membership status at the Ticketing Desk when you present your photo ID.

What do you need to know now that SAM membership has caught up with the digital age? Check out our FAQ!

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OBJECT OF THE WEEK: Study for Aleko’s Horse

Marc Chagall was a prolific artist, producing numerous pieces in a variety of media. Renowned for his richly colored, idiosyncratic style of painting that weds abstraction and Cubism, some of his lesser-known masterpieces revolved around the theater. Chagall’s relationship with the stage began in 1911, when he worked on set designs for the Ballets Russes. He continued to contribute to Russian-based stage designs throughout the ‘20s, before moving to Paris in 1923.[1] While this was an artistically productive period for Chagall, the Nazi occupation of France made living in Paris unsafe for the artist, who was Jewish. With the assistance of organizations working to extricate artists and intellectuals from Europe, Chagall and his wife immigrated to New York for the duration of World War II, arriving in the United States in 1941.  

In 1942, Chagall was hired by the Ballet Theater of New York to design the ballet costumes and sets for a new play. Based on the poem “The Gypsies,” by Alexander Pushkin, the ballet Aleko featured music by Tchaikovsky.[2] The ballet follows the story of Aleko, the protagonist who falls in love with a Romani girl named Zemfira. Their love is not everlasting, however, and by the fourth act Aleko kills Zemfira and her new lover in a fit of jealous rage. While Chagall had worked on set designs before, this was the first time he applied his skills to a ballet. He ultimately designed four backdrops—one for each act—and over 70 costumes. While the ballet’s production was to be completed in New York, union rules forbade Chagall from painting his own sets. As a result, production moved to Mexico City, an environment which greatly influenced Chagall’s designs. Heavily inspired by both Russian folklore and Mexican art and architecture, Chagall produced beautifully whimsical hand-painted ballet costumes and backdrops, including numerous design studies.

Chagall’s Study for Aleko’s Horse is one such study, merging images from both the second and fourth acts of the play. The study’s rich, vibrant colors and whimsical subject matter capture the dynamic and psychological aspects of the story. In the second act, which revolves around a lively carnival, Aleko and Zemfira are still in love. By the fourth act, Aleko dreams of strange and nightmarish fantasies, with images that twist and swirl before his eyes. Aleko’s nightmares take him to the brink of insanity—and, jealous and enraged, he kills Zemfira, in love with another man.[3] The juxtaposition of these two scenes represents the dramatic turn of events, synthesized in Chagall’s study as a densely layered, colorful dreamscape.

Hayley Makinster, SAM Curatorial Intern

[1] Stephanie Barron, “Marc Chagall and Twentieth-Century Designs for the Stage,” LACMA Unframed, 1 August 2017. https://unframed.lacma.org/2017/08/01/marc-chagall-and-twentieth-century-designs-stage
[2] Liesl Bradner, “Marc Chagall Reveals his Theatrical Side in LACMA’s ‘Fantasies for the Stage,’” LA Times, 23 July 2017. https://www.latimes.com/entertainment/arts/la-ca-cm-chagall-lacma-20170714-story.html
[3] Leland Windreich, “Massine’s ‘Aleko,’” Dance Chronicle 8, no. ¾ (1985): 156-160, http://www.jstor.org/stable/1567580
Image: Study for Aleko’s Horse, 1953-56, Marc Chagall, Oil on canvas, 18 × 24 in. (45.7 × 61 cm), Gift of Gladys and Sam Rubinstein, 2014.26.9 Estate of Marc Chagall/Licensed by Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY
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Docents Defined: Erin Bruce

SAM is now recruiting new docents to start training for the reopening of the Seattle Asian Art Museum. You don’t need to be an art historian or a 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 docents like Erin Bruce who volunteer their time at the museum.

If you still want to learn more about being a docent? Join SAM staff and current docents at our Docent Open House on May 16 from 6–7 pm! Or, apply now to the docent program. Applications are accepted through May 31.

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

Erin Bruce: I have always been inspired by all things visual, whether it is nature, a building, a room and especially art. I studied art in college and made art whenever possible. Now I am a technical stock trader and rely on charts for my work—more visual interpretation! It was a three-year wait for a new docent class to start for me after a friend told me about SAM. The chance to participate with our museum is an honor.

What’s the best part about being a docent?

The best part is all of it: meeting energetic, generous, knowledgeable people; constant learning; leading a tour of young people and engaging them in the art and history of objects. It’s all gratifying. SAM’s collections are a wondrous gift to our city and special exhibitions join and expand experiences as well.

What is your favorite work of art to tour at the Asian Art Museum?

The Deer Scroll. Calligrapher Koetsu and painter Sotatsu collaborated to create this iconic masterpiece. Our 30 feet of the original 72 feet contains 12 poems from the Shin Kokinshu, which took four years to write. The beauty and harmony transports you to another time and place.

What’s your most memorable touring experience?

Tours were scheduled the week before Mother’s Day so I made a gallery activity “A Gift for Mom.” Given one exhibition room students got to pick an object that they would give to their Mom if they could. It revealed so many wonderful things such as what objects in our Asian art collection young people were most drawn to, what they found beautiful and why. Crafting future tours improved since I had learned some of their favorite objects. The chance to interact with young people is yet another joy and benefit of leading a school tour.

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

Your interests and life experiences offer wonderful and unique perspectives. You will discover and explore the vast and layered connections of art to our lives. It is so much fun.

– Yaoyao Liu, Seattle Asian Art Museum Educator

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Donor Spotlight: Yucca and Gary Support Seattle Asian Art Museum

The renovation and expansion of our Asian Art Museum is about more than the preservation of art. We’re also furthering our mission to connect our Asian art collection to the life of our community for generations to come. Our donors are sharing how important art is to them in making connections to both the past and the future and the importance of SAM in creating those connections. Learn more about the project and show your support!

We are very pleased to support the Seattle Asian Art Museum and the mission of greater understanding between the US and Asia. We lived several years in Japan and over ten years in China, and feel that art and culture play a major role in more deeply appreciating the history, achievements, and challenges of the Asia-Pacific region.

Seattle is uniquely positioned as a true gateway to the Asia-Pacific, with a number of the industries and technologies that are at the core of the next decades of development. Integrating art and culture into the mix in a more direct way through SAM is something we are very excited to support.

– Yucca & Gary Rieschel

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Donor Spotlight: Carol Frankel Supports Seattle Asian Art Museum

We’re not the only ones excited about the renovation of our Asian Art Museum! Hear from the donors that are making the preservation of SAM’s original home possible for the benefit of generations to come. Learn more about the project and show your support!

There is no place in Seattle that means more to me than the Seattle Asian Art Museum in Volunteer Park. Many, many years ago when it was the entire Seattle Art Museum and I got my first drivers license at age 16, the first place I drove by myself was to the Seattle Art Museum to see a Van Gogh exhibition. I felt very grown up and very sophisticated!

Some decades later when I retired from the faculty of the University of Puget Sound, I decided to become a docent. I had not been an art major. For me art was always “the road not taken,” but through my university work, I had become very interested in Japan. The year of my docent training, the downtown location was being remodeled and all our training was the Volunteer Park site. Needless to say, by this time I was hooked on Asian art and deeply in love with the Asian Art Museum. I was so delighted when Xiaojin Wu and Ping Foong brought their new vision to my old friend. I have experienced Song landscape painting, which formed the basis for the background in Disney’s Bambi and waded through the rubble of Live On, Mr’s post-tsunami installation. I was completely overjoyed to hear that the Asian Art Museum was being renovated. Contributing to help make that possible became one of my highest priorities. I am so proud of that site and can hardly wait to wander those new galleries!

– Carol Frankel

Illustration: Natali Wiseman
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For the Love of Art: Mary Joyce

MARY JOYCE
Digital Strategy Consultant
Member since 2013

Why do you love art?

Art helps me to think differently, to see the world in a new way. I particularly like contemporary art for this reason—it is bounded only by the artist’s imagination and their ability to physically realize the idea.

What’s your occupation? What are your hobbies or passions?

I am a digital strategy consultant with a particular focus on using digital tools for activism. That means that I help people who want to change the world figure out who they need to persuade in order to do that and then how to persuade them. In the realm of political activism, often people want someone in the government to make a change. But it could be any kind of audience. If you want to change the world, usually you have to persuade someone to take some action and that’s where communication comes in.

I hear you worked on the Obama campaign.

Yes, I did, in 2008. It was very exciting to do the first digital campaign. I was the operations manager for the new media department. We had 60 people working on email, graphic design, and video. It was really cool to see how the technology and communication work was being driven by strategy. There was a Facebook group called “A Million Strong for Barack Obama.” One of the reasons to do that was not only to gin up [individual] support, but to seek media support. They said, “Oh you are never going to have a million posts in a Facebook group.” Then when we did, there was additional media coverage from that. So doing something new was part of the branding.

What brought you to Seattle?

I came here for grad school. I have an MA in communication from UW. Right now I am doing communication consulting and also working on an organization that’s going to do strategy training practice online. There is a lot of activism around right now where people are really passionate but it’s not clear who they are trying to influence or what their demand is. Sometimes it’s ok to go out there and show your feelings, but if you can direct these feelings for some practical change—that’s what I’m for.

Where does art fit into the picture?

Art is basically part of liking humanity. Why would I want to oppose oppression or support human rights? Because humans can do beautiful things like make art. It’s very much an alpha/omega situation for me. Defending human rights, helping people make their lives better so that they can make beautiful things like sculpt, paint, play music, or write poetry—that’s the connection.

Do you think art is something that people are freed up to do once they achieve . . . would you call it freedom?

I think that people are hardwired to create. Obviously, in history, people in horrible conditions have created beautiful art. But if you free someone’s spirit from fear, physical need, or other kinds of oppression, then there is an opportunity for that person to blossom and more fully express themselves. I would say that oppression and art can coexist, but people who are free to express themselves are more likely to do so.

How does the museum fit in?

The museum is where I can easily come in contact with art. We can see art in a magazine or we might pass a piece of public art in the city, but if you want to seek art out you know you can have that experience in a museum. And in addition to their collection, SAM has talks and performances that provide all kinds of artistic experiences throughout the year. It’s also just a relaxing and pleasant place to hang out and take a break.

Why did you join SAM?

I was a student at the time and a friend brought me for an event. I was buying a ticket and the very effective salespeople told me that for $10 more I could become a member for the whole year. The student rate was such a great deal to allow me to support an arts institution. In my family supporting culture is valued. Obviously as a student I really didn’t have resources but because I could afford the student rate and support an institution, I wanted to do that.

Because SAM believes everyone should have access to art and creativity, we offer memberships at a variety levels. Find out more about joining as a student and begin enjoying SAM for free for an entire year. Join now and see Jacob Lawrence: The Migration Series before it closes on April 23. The Migration Series focuses on social justice issues surrounding the Great Migration of African Americans from the rural South to the industrial North in the decades after the First World War. If you agree with Mary that art is crucial to our humanity, share in art at SAM starting today.

Photo: Scott Areman.
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For the Love of Art: Beimnet Demelas

BEIMNET DEMELAS
Patron staff member since 2012

Why do you love art?

I love art because I feel like it’s one of the many ways to express yourself. I go to an art school and it’s really different from other high schools because the focus is on art. Having so many different art classes gives everyone a way to be comfortable with themselves and what they can do and, again, a chance to express themselves.

Do you think museums are important to society?

Yes, because you’re seeing artists’ work and they dedicated themselves to the painting, or sculpture, or whatever it is. People take an interest in art, so it’s important to have a place where it’s possible for them to appreciate it.

What kind of art do you make?

Music. I’m in choir, dance, and photography so I have a lot of elective classes.

What do you want to be when you “grow up?”

I really like writing. Photojournalism is something I’ve been looking at, and social work because I really want to help people, not with their health, but emotionally with the decisions they make. So I haven’t really decided.

Do you have a favorite piece at SAM?

I like this one painting—I don’t remember what the name is—it’s a calm and peaceful country setting. It has a pinkish shade to it and has so many little hidden pictures in it that I spend a lot of time looking at it. I go look at it all the time. That is my favorite picture. It’s so beautiful and I love the color. There is a little house in the corner and there are people outside of it but you can’t really tell if you are just walking past. You have to really pay attention. There are fish in the water and there are so many things in the picture.

A Country Home by Frederick Edwin Church. That’s one of our American art curator’s favorites, too. It’s in the third floor American Art Galleries. Do you come here with your friends or is this a place where you come alone?

I bring my friends along. I brought my parents, cousins, brother, and sister. A majority of my family has come to the museum because I feel they should come and see it.

Why do you think it’s important for them to come?

Because there are so many beautiful things and it’s really nice to see, especially when it’s so close. I felt the need to bring them in so they could see what I’m around all the time.

Join SAM as a member today and be the first to see Seeing Nature: Landscape Masterworks from the Paul G. Allen Family Collection at the Member Preview on February 15. A SAM membership means that, like Beimnet, you can visit your favorite artworks as often as you like for free for 12 months. With free guests passes, you can share your love of art with friends and family over the year. Don’t delay, Seeing Nature opens next week!

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For the Love of Art: Mariana Tomas

MARIANA TOMAS
35–44
Change management consultant
Dual member since 2011

Why do you love art?

Art makes us ask questions. It makes us stand on our tippy-toes peeking around the painted street corner. It sparks our curiosity. It inspires us, charges our batteries, and makes our souls richer.

What are your hobbies or passions?

In my free time, I explore caves. When you’re in that cave, there is nothing else. The world outside does not exist, because the possibility that you will never see daylight again is always present. In a way, caving is like space travel, the last frontier, the ultimate mission into unknown. The promise that it holds is breathtaking beauty, exploration, adventure, and, of course, discovery of something we didn’t know about ourselves. You’re testing your own limits, you’re watching your every move, and you’re trying to absorb as much as you can from your surroundings. To me, this is very primal.

Do you see any link between your hobbies of cave exploring and art?

I think it’s curiosity, because what I wrote about art is actually what I used to do when I was a little kid. My aunt had a painting of a street corner that veered off and you couldn’t see where it was leading so I thought if I got myself in the right position, somehow I would see the other side of the street. It’s the same thing about caves—it’s searching for the next thing around the corner and just being curious. The curiosity that we have as the human race, I guess.

You’re a change management consultant. What does that mean?

Change management is an emerging field that’s growing here in the Pacific Northwest. We have an international organization where we help organizations to transition. It could be anything from companies moving or implementing new software or having a merger with another company. We help with preparing people for the new world. I’ve been doing this for 7 years.

What’s your favorite SAM location? Do you have a special spot to visit?

SAM’s Asian Art Museum. The museum has such historical value and it’s just so beautiful. The setting in Volunteer Park—and all of it—is just great. I love to visit Monk At The Moment Of Enlightenment. I found looking at the other Asian art that’s exhibited there from that period that you don’t see a whole lot of expression on the face (in general) and he has this expression of bliss that I think is so hard to capture—even for something that is that old and made in wood. That moment of enlightenment that we all hope—well, maybe not all but some of us hope—to maybe live someday. I think it’s a really uplifting piece of art and pretty unique to what I’ve seen. I don’t claim to be an Asian art connoisseur so I just enjoy it.

Yes, we like the things we like. You’ve been a member since 2011?

Yes. I really didn’t realize how easy it is to be a member. I got a gift membership that year and I was thrilled. I just love coming to the museum and it definitely pays in multiple ways. Not just financially. Here you get that sense that art is accessible and that’s really the appeal to me: being a part of it, being able to support it in some way.

If you, like Mariana, love the Asian Art Museum, get enlightened on what’s happening as we begin our renovation and expansion of the historic home of SAM. Members make our world go round and you can help ensure the future of the Asian Art Museum by becoming a member today or making a donation to the renovation of the iconic Art Deco building.

visitsam.org/inspire

Photos: Natali Wiseman
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For the Love of Art Member Profile: Susan and Nina Arens

SUSAN & NINA ARENS
Dual members since 2005

Susan, why do you come to SAM?

S: I come to SAM for many reasons: a respite for meditation and solitude, for inspiration in my own artwork, to share my love of art with friends and family, to meet my daughters for lunch. I love having a membership because I can drop in for twenty minutes or two hours as often as I like. 

Nina, can you tell me a little bit about what you do?

N: I went to grad school for museum studies. When I was a kid I really liked art and science. So when I went to grad school I studied art and science museums and science and art museums. Now I work in science, but I’m trying to start a pop-up science museum that will take place at community organizations, storefronts, or places like big museums.

We come in and do a curriculum that’s science-based but really multidisciplinary. This weekend is the second one, which is a paper circuit workshop. Kids will make Christmas cards and they will learn some electrical engineering—and they will draw, play with colors, and figure out what they want things to look like. It should be fun. The first one took place in White Center and was an exhibit on computer science.

Susan & Nina Arens

Do you guys experience SAM as a family? Do you come here together?

S: Yes! The whole family comes. Actually, my husband used to work around the corner so we would meet here frequently. It’s a stopover place for us, which I love. I love to have a membership so I can just say, “Hey, meet me here, let’s go see whatever is going on or go revisit something.” It’s not just an occasion. It’s part of our lives—of my life, anyway.

N: During a lot of grad school I was abroad. My sister’s been traveling and my brother’s not living here. When we all come back to Seattle we go to SAM.

S: Nina takes us. My husband has work meetings in the café. We have a lot of history here for the last ten years. We moved here about ten years ago.

N: I got her a membership as a birthday present.

S: I’d forgotten about that!

N: When we first moved here I was probably seventeen. I said, “This is for Mom.” If you want to know a place you have to find out where the museum is.

S: Yes! I travel with my husband; I’m fortunate I can sometimes go with him for free. Every city I go to, I go to the museums. I’ve seen tons of American museums lately. Yes, SAM’s right up there. Proud of our hometown. I like it best when SAM brings in really unique exhibitions, things that you aren’t going to see everywhere and you aren’t going to follow along to a bunch of different cities.

Do you attend many SAM events?

N: I like the museum events because they break things up—you can go see the art, and then you can explore in your own way how you feel about that art. When we go to Remix, I always really like those because they break up how you establish a relationship with art—you look at it and then do something.

S: You’ve always been interested in art. I mean, I was one of those moms that threw the shower curtain on the kitchen floor and gave them paint, said go.

N: I don’t remember that!

S: You don’t? You remember your birthday in the garage. We covered the walls in the garage and we painted.

N: Yes!

S: Everybody remembers that.

As the holidays approach, give the gift of art to someone so they can enjoy the pleasures of SAM Membership year round. As Nina, a SAM member for 10 years says, “If you want to know a place you have to find out where the museum is.” And the museum is right here for you. Share it with someone special! Gift memberships are available now!

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