Seattle is known for being “out there” both geographically and ideologically. Consistently ranked among the most progressive cities in the country, its rebellious mentality is also manifest in its arts scene, which embodies Seattle’s pioneering spirit as well as illuminating the many challenges facing the growing metropolis, including gentrification, homelessness and rising income inequality. Never a community to shy away from a challenge, however, Seattle’s artistic ethos of relentless innovation and optimism is evident with the return of the Seattle Art Fair, opening July 21.
After a two-year hiatus due to the pandemic, the fair’s sixth edition highlights the depth and breadth of the region’s arts community while also focusing on well-known galleries and artists from around the world. “Art fairs bring together a city’s vibrant visual arts culture under one giant roof,” said Amada Cruz, director and CEO of the Seattle Art Museum, which has signed on as the fair’s favored partner for the next three years. “I hope that visitors unfamiliar with Seattle’s art scene will be impressed by the incredible talent, diversity and passion that can be found here.”
Featuring 85 local, national and international galleries across 87,000 square feet at the Lumen Field Event Center, the four-day event will also feature several regional arts organizations including Artist Trust, Henry Art Gallery, Pilchuck Glass School and Amplifier. It’s clear that this year’s organizers have embraced the city’s broad definition of art, with institutions focusing on everything from NFTs to activist public art to bonsai. “We know our community values the arts, and we want them to understand and be moved by the living art form bonsai,” says Pat Bako, executive director of the Pacific Bonsai Museum, which is attending the fair as a cultural partner for the first time . Peter Hamilton, co-founder of the Seattle NFT Museum, also recognizes the city’s openness to new art forms. “Our community is curious and innovative, and we hope to show visitors that the recent explosion in digital art is a wonderful thing for artists who have long been overlooked,” he says.
Exploring the traditionally unexplored is a common theme for artists creating the fair’s 10 site-specific installations, including Seattle-based, Pakistani-born artist Humaira Abid. Abid’s intricately carved and painted wooden sculptures, represented by Greg Kucera Gallery, exude a delicately haunting presence as she explores complex issues such as gender roles within the ongoing global refugee crisis. “Art should comfort the troubled and disturb the comfortable,” Abid describes her four-part installation at the Seattle Art Fair THIS WORLD IS BEAUTIFUL AND ALSO DANGEROUS. “As artists, we have a responsibility to inform and give a voice to people who cannot speak for themselves. I hope that my work brings us closer and stimulates conversations.”
Sparking conversations about difficult but urgent issues is also a concern of Seattle artist and filmmaker Inye Wokoma, who presents an installation in collaboration with Wa Na Wari, the local cultural organization he co-founded that promotes black arts and culture in puts the focus. Titled separation count, Wokoma’s collage and digital installation deals with the emotional consequences of displacement and forced migration for people in the Central District, Seattle’s historically black neighborhood. “What’s happening in Seattle in terms of community development and community dispersal is happening in pretty much every major city across the country,” says the artist. “It’s important to have these conversations in a place like the Seattle Art Fair so that we can have a meaningful engagement that’s focused on sharing personal, individual experiences.”
Amidst the wide array of artists, institutions, and artworks on display at Seattle Art Fair 2022, visitors will find a direct line to the steadfast creative energy that pulses within this community, despite the many challenges Seattle artists face today . As the city continues the hard work required to maintain a vibrant arts ecosystem in a technology-dominated community, the fair emphasizes the key ingredient in this meaningful work: participation. “This fair provides an opportunity for Seattle’s cultural community to meet and support one another in person,” said Seattle Art Fair Artistic Director Nato Thompson. “Art reflects our lives much better than newspapers. Getting to know these artists and galleries gives a deep insight into the depth and complexity of the people who make up Seattle’s art scene.”
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