July 13, 2005
Image © Lara Swimmer
On June 18th, after a 20-month hiatus,
the Bellevue Arts Museum reopened with a new mission and a
new look. In 2001, the Bellevue moved into its first home,
a Steven Holl design, with the goals of presenting cutting-edge
contemporary art and providing extensive, hands-on arts education.
Located in a culturally conservative Seattle suburb, BAM has
now sharply curtailed its education programs and shifted its
exhibition focus to showcasing the fine art of craft
and design, in the words of its new director Michael
Monroe, who is also an exhibit designer, oversaw an $800,000
remodelling meant to make the building more intimate, more
workable as an exhibit facility, and better attuned to its
new mission, while attempting to continue Holls
vocabulary, he says.
To lighten the atmosphere, Monroes team has repainted
the walls of the main level in pale tones of sage, pumpkin,
and lavender, improved the exhibit lighting, and covered cracking
concrete floors with dark carpeting that also provide acoustic
benefits. A library and arts studio were converted to galleries,
and an artist-in-residence studio has become a docent space.
Some galleries have been altered by new partitions, better
suiting them for displaying smaller objects, while many natural
light sources have been blocked, enabling exhibit lighting
to take fuller effect. Circulation has been improved by creating
an internal red trapezoidal vestibule at the top of the ceremonial
staircase that serves the top floor galleries. The foyer arose
from a Holl design study; the other changes were largely conceived
by Monroe and executed by the local firm of Scalater Architects.
Holl's office has taken the changes in stride. "BAM
is an institution in evolution," says project manager
Chris McVoy, "and was designed as an art barn able to