Since I was already planning on visiting the Portland Art Museum, I decided to skip the Seattle Art Museum and visit the Frye Art Museum instead. This museum located in the First Hill area first opened in 1952 to present the private collection of Charles and Emma Frye. The Fryes owned 232 paintings, most of them by German artists, and they left money in their will to build a museum provided that admission would always be free. Over the years, the museum's collection has grown to include works by American artists that complemented the Fryes' collection, which is mostly made up of representative arts. The bulk of the collection is presented in one huge room covered with paintings from floor to ceiling, and visitors can pick up information sheets that describe the paintings as they enter the room.
Although admission remains free to this day, the Frye Art Museum has grown to include a cafe and temporary exhibitions. When we were there, we got to see a rather interesting one focusing on Albert von Keller and the Occult, reflecting the sudden rise in popularity of esoterism in Europe at the end of the 19th century. We also got to see a rather disturbing one featuring performances by a Seattle-based group of artists called "Implied Violence", which was strangely captivating.
Charles and Emma Frye were early Seattle art collectors and business leaders. They loaned a number of works from their private collection to various Seattle events, and they hosted a number of art and charitable events in their home. The Frye museum opened in 1952, with the former Frye collection forming the basis of their exhibits.
However, as part of maintaining the collection, the museum has also tried to maintain the spirit of civic responsibility that Charles and Emma Frye had in hosting the various events at their home, as well as their charitable works.
The museum now features a mixture of contemporary works plus items from the collection of Founding Frye Collection. The museum has an extensive public outreach and education part of its work, and there are considerable efforts by the museum to use art work to reach out to marginalized parts of the local society. This may be seen by some of the works on display here.
There is a frequently unvisited part of the museum down the "education" wing. While some of what is in that wing is not open to the public, the corridor itself leading to the classrooms and offices does feature exhibits, and you may find some of the most interesting treasures of your visit here. For example, included in the exhibits that were there when I visited were works by Seattle school students, including a remarkable and haunting short film. To get to this wing from the main entrance to the museum, follow the signs to the Frye Art Museum Cafe, and keep following the corridor to the back of the museum towards the education wing.
The musuem is free of charge, in continuation of the Frye family tradition of civic responsibility and making art accessible to those who are on the margins of society.
The museum has free WiFi access, and a cafe that serves an assortment of snacks and beverages. There is also a museum store that features everything from toys to environmentally sensitive water bottles to art educational tools and memorabilia.
As with most art museums, photography is not allowed inside.
Hours: Closed Mondays. Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday 10 to 5. Thursdays 10 am to 8 pm. Sundays 12 to 5.