The Washington State Convention Center’s public art program, one of the first of its kind in the nation, was established to provide an environment that enriches the experience of all who visit the meeting facility. With well over 100 works on display, art has been a popular feature since the facility opened in 1988. Initially, art was incorporated into the building design as part of the State’s Percent for the Arts program. Since then, WSCC has developed an ever-changing collection, readily accessible at no charge to the public. The facility has earned a reputation for being an excellent exhibit site with tremendous accessibility. The WSCC galleries regularly receive mention as a destination of note in tourist guides for Seattle.
Our notable permanent collection consists of gifts and long-term loans from artists, galleries, other governmental entities, corporations, foundations and private collectors. Well-known artists represented include Alfredo Arreguin, Hilda Morris, Alden Mason, Jenny Holzer, James Washington, Jr., Tony Angell, Margaret Tomkins, Kenneth Callahan, Michael Spafford, Richard Gilkey, Guy Anderson, Ron Hilbert, Paul Horiuchi and Nancy Mee. Some of the most popular works include Lebeg (Ann Gardner), Games (Jacob Lawrence), The Spirits Within (Alfredo Arreguin) and “A” Procession (Patty Warashina).
Quarterly rotating exhibitions provide a diverse array of local artists’ works, creating an ever-changing tapestry of talent. These shows are booked approximately two years in advance, following a screening process with the WSCC’s Art Advisors. Nearly 200 exhibitions have been featured in the Rotating Art Gallery, Level 2 of the facility, since 1991.
The Public Art Program was founded by Phyllis Lamphere, in keeping with the state legislature’s mandate that the Center “provide both direct and indirect civic and economic benefits to the people of the State”. Ms. Lamphere had served on the Seattle City Council from 1967 to 1978 and was already deeply involved in the city’s civic life when she was appointed to the inaugural WSCC Board of Directors. An Art Advisory Group of experts from our community joined together with Ms. Lamphere to create partnerships for providing long-term loans from museums, galleries, government, corporations, foundations, private collectors and artists. The early support from the Washington State Arts Commission, King County’s 4 Culture and the Seattle Office of Arts & Culture was instrumental in getting us underway with our program.
In 1998, the WSCC Board of Directors established the Washington State Convention Center Art Foundation, at Ms. Lamphere’s recommendation. The Art Foundation is a non-profit corporation that serves the WSCC Art Program by providing the financial means to obtain new works and otherwise support the program. The WSCC also receives art-related assistance from a panel of advisors that works with government, corporate and foundation collections.
In 2017, the Level 2 Public Art Gallery was officially dedicated as the Phyllis Lamphere Gallery in honor of Ms. Lamphere. We invite you to view the video Phyllis Lamphere: A Legacy of Art, a tribute to her lifelong passion for art and commitment to the WSCC.
Artworks are displayed across the four levels of public space in the facility, and a self-guided tour brochure is available throughout the facility or you can view it here. The brochure also provides a rotating exhibition schedule and contact information for artists as well as galleries, museums and institutions that are partners in the art program.