Arts and Entertainment

Bellevue Arts Museum celebrates five years of growth

The Bellevue Arts Museum celebrated five years since its reopening in 2005. - Courtesy photo
The Bellevue Arts Museum celebrated five years since its reopening in 2005.
— image credit: Courtesy photo

The Bellevue Arts Museum director of curatorial affairs Stefano Catalani may not have blown out any candles in honor of the museum's fifth birthday, but there was still plenty to celebrate at this past week's annual membership meeting.

Since reopening in 2005, BAM has attracted nearly 2 million visitors and has produced 50 exhibitions promoting cultural arts in the Northwest. The museum has become known as a center for the exploration of art, craft and design.

"We are celebrating something today. We are celebrating five years of a museum that has been revitalized, refreshed and the focus – redefined. It's truly extraordinary," said Mark Crawford, Executive Director of BAM. "We have the staff, docents, trustees, members, the audience and of course the artists to thank. The story should really be about the people who made this happen. The ones who had the vision, the passion and the drive to do it."

BAM operates on a $3 million annual budget and experienced an increase of 30 percent in paid admissions last year. Membership has increased by 7 percent, bringing the total to 1,790 active members. An estimated 50,000 visitors explore the exhibits and programs each year.

Still, times are tough and the economy has hit the arts especially hard.

To help offset costs over the next few years, BAM has launched a multi-year pledge campaign, with a goal of raising $3 million by November 30, 2010. The campaign has already brought in a little over $2 million.

The museum was first established in 1975 and moved into its current downtown location on Bellevue Way in 2000. Three short years later, the museum closed its doors due to low attendance and financial uncertainty. Under the leadership and guidance of Executive Director Michael Monroe, who joined the museum in 2004, BAM turned over a new leaf.

In 2005, BAM redeveloped its mission to focus on art, craft and design with an emphasis on innovative exhibitions, dynamic educational programs and special community events. The city of Bellevue gave BAM a $2 million grant in 2007.

Monroe moved into the role of Director of Curatorial Affairs in 2008 and later retired in February 2010, becoming Director Emeritus and continuing to stay integrated with BAM.

"We want to honor Michael Monroe who retired from his position as Executive Director this past year, but has continued to participate and contribute. He is still very part of the family," Crawford explained.

Strong exhibits, experienced leadership and a new focus has allowed BAM to prosper over the past five years. The 2005 reopening of BAM launched with an exhibit titled, "The Artful Teapots" and was followed by "A Tapestry of Memories: The Art of Dinh Q. Lê" in 2007. BAM has featured traveling exhibitions including work by Michael Peterson and Lisa Granlinick and has produced 14 publications including the American Association of Museum winner, Dim Sum at the On-On Tea Room in 2007.

Catalani has overseen a number of new educational programs during this past year including Breakfast at BAM, Members' First Look, Making BAM Tick and the successful boutique jewelry event titled, Indulge.

"We have encouraged talk about Northwest artists in the Northwest and elsewhere," Catalani said. "The community is engaged. We are very proud of these last five years."

Bellevue Arts Museum is located at 510 Bellevue Way NE. Learn more at or call 425-5190770.

Lindsay Larin can be reached at 425-453-4602.

Current Exhibits

Arline Fisch: Creatures from the Deep (room installation of floating creatures)


July 23-25, 2010 - BAM artsfair & kidsfair

August 28, 2010 - BAM Biennial 2010: Clay Throwndown! showcasing original work by 34 artists selected out of 170 applicants to propose new, one-of-a-kind artwork.

October 5, 2010 - Ginny Ruffner: Aesthetic Engineering The Imagination Cycle. Seattle artist featuring sculptures of glass and metal

October 26 to April, 2011 – Surgent: Into the Surface. Room installation of glass panels with engraved images

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