In Seattle, Everywhere Is an Art Gallery

Shortly after I moved to Seattle, I learned of an upstart experimental art gallery, concert venue, bar, and social club. I joined McLeod Residence in 2007, enjoyed some low-priced drinks, experienced some unusual exhibitions, and taught myself Ruby to write an e-mail-driven LED confession board. (It started receiving spam shortly after it launched.) McLeod closed on Halloween in 2008, but through it I learned a lot about this company town’s burgeoning art scene.

Galleries large and small are all over Seattle, from the gorgeous Art Deco-style Asian Art Museum down to individual works for sale at coffee shops. Even a local vape shop participates in my neighborhood’s monthly Art Walk. Nearby Tacoma is home to Dale Chihuly, whose beautiful glass installations I’ve seen at locations as far away as Las Vegas and St. Louis. I recommend that all visitors during warm-weather months visit the Olympic Sculpture Park, an amazing waterfront stroll past striking artwork and through lush greenery. Public works projects also have public artwork thanks to the city’s 1% for art program. Some of these installations, like the large artwork at Beacon Hill light rail station, are attractions in themselves.

Before I moved to Seattle I lived in Pittsburgh, where old money and affordable land had created an outsized art scene. Seattle doesn’t yet have any facilities as grand as the Carnegie Museum of Art or the Andy Warhol Museum, but Microsoft’s and Amazon’s billionaires are starting to funnel their money into local museums. Tiny galleries dot my home of Capitol Hill, which recently was designated a city Arts District centered around a large multipurpose building including theaters, offices, restaurants, and even affordable housing. The need for affordable housing has never been greater than it is now, particularly in creative industries where “exposure” is all too often mistaken for compensation.

As a software developer by trade, I’ve been intrigued by art that’s a tangible, sensory experience unlike what I build for a living. At a local furniture store I found several artworks by Mollie Bryan, a Seattle artist who blends late-20th-century media like audiocassettes with bright, simple geometric designs. After I bought Frogger, a large blue-and-green work based on the video game, I started following Ms. Bryan on social media. She’s also coordinated shows large and small with electronic musicians and she has continued to produce visual art under the pseudonym Mokedo. Her own gallery and event space, also called Mokedo, opens tonight. I’m expecting to learn a lot more about interesting local creators at events there.

I’m drawn to art because I don’t fully understand it — the same quality that attracts me to, say, Japan or women. I’m very grateful for all the shows, venues, and creative people in my new hometown.

This is part 9 of 10 Years, 10 Things to Love, a yearlong series commemorating my 10th anniversary of moving to Seattle.