The spring arts season may look a little different this year in Bellevue, but there are still plenty of ways to enjoy sculpture, painting, murals, and more—all while staying safe and physically distanced. Like countless arts organizations across the globe, many of Bellevue’s local arts programs, events, and spaces had to temporarily close due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But those who have been longing for in-person arts encounters are in luck. A number of the city’s arts venues are carefully reopening, welcoming the public back into their spaces through timed entries that allow for intimate, comfortable visits.
Bellevue Arts Museum
The shining star of Bellevue’s visual arts scene, the Bellevue Arts Museum (BAM) has recently reopened its galleries to the public. Those who book in advance on the museum’s website can enjoy an up-close view of the current exhibitions Friday through Sunday.
If you’re not ready for an in-person visit, not to worry. The museum will continue to offer 3D tours of its current exhibitions for free on its website. The tours change with the opening and closing of new exhibits, but some recent 3D tours have included America’s Monsters, Superheros, and Villains, featuring a collection of more than 300 toys from the 1960s to the 1990s, and Yellow No. 5, a colorful exploration of the relationship between consumers and the material goods they love.
“BAM is always changing and innovating,” says Benedict Heywood, the museum’s Executive Director & Chief Curator. “There’s always something new to look forward to at BAM. In addition to our two new exhibitions that opened at the beginning of February, and the new 3D walkthroughs for those shows, I’m most excited to complete the development work for the BAM Arts Fair, which, for this year will be a fully digital event giving our visitors completely new ways to collect and to support art and artists on the West Coast.”
Bellevue Downtown Arts Market
With the decision to host the BAM Arts Fair virtually this year, the Bellevue Downtown Arts Market—formerly known as the 6th Street Arts Fair and usually held in conjunction with the BAM Arts Fair—has decided to hold its 2021 celebration of the arts Sept. 4–6, 2021, to allow for in-person attendance. Visitors to this popular open-air event can stroll amid the displays of 100-plus artists of sculpture, jewelry, home decor, wood and glass work, fabric art, and more in the heart of Downtown Bellevue.
Bellwether Arts Festival
Another not-to-miss arts event, the Bellwether Arts Festival is a free, 10-day, multi-disciplinary arts experience produced by the City of Bellevue and the local arts community. The 2021 event is currently slated for September after last year’s edition was ultimately cancelled due to COVID-19. However, there is no need to wait to see what these talented artists have been up to. In response to the cancelation of their last event, the team launched the Bellwether Winter Market. An e-commerce site and artist directory featuring past and future Bellwether artists, the platform serves to promote and sell work by local creatives.
KidsQuest Children's Museum
Young artists can once again flex their artistic muscles—and otherwise engage their brains—at the hands-on exhibits of KidsQuest Children’s Museum. Through two-hour ticketed reservations (made on the museum’s website), little creatives can make one-of-a-kind works in the Art Studio, find joy in the ephemeral nature of painting rocks with water in the Stick & Stones gallery, and awaken their analytical abilities in the Recycle Rebuild space.
If you’ve had enough of the digital world, switch off your device and head outside to view the wide array of public art positioned throughout Bellevue’s downtown core. The city offers a series of self-guided walking tours based on free, accessible art; there are more than 120 public works, both indoors and outdoors, from dozens of artists, many of them local.
The printable ArtMap, courtesy of the Bellevue Arts Commission, plots the plethora of unique works that can easily be viewed on a walk through town. While Scott MacDonald, the Bellevue’s Arts Community Manager, explains the city is currently updating the map to reflect which pieces are still safely accessible (some of the indoor art currently cannot be viewed), there is still plenty to see—from the towering kinetic sculpture by the late George Baker in Downtown Park to a 33-foot-tall totemic installation embedded with dynamic lighting that shifts through the color spectrum near the Bellevue Transit Center.
“One of my favorite artworks is at the Bellevue Botanical Garden,” MacDonald says. “It’s called Night Blooming, and it’s a beehive-shaped silo around 15 feet tall. You can climb into it and it has all of these little light openings. It’s a fun experience.” The artwork, by Taiji Miyasaka, was originally on BAM’s rooftop plaza, and it was donated to the city following its showing at the museum.
Another popular piece MacDonald points out is a mural by Tacoma artist Kenji Hamai Stoll. The 3,780-square-foot work, White Ashes 9, was commissioned by the City of Bellevue for the 2019 Bellwether Arts Festival’s Sodatsu installation. The aerosol-and-latex-paint mural wraps around a former church building, its white flowers bursting open against a background of green, orange, and yellow leaves.