Asian Pacific American Visual Artists in a Modern Seattle: 1960s to 1980s

Mayumi Tsutakawa


The relationships, connections, and community networks of Asian American and Pacific Islander visual artists in the Seattle area reveal their responses to conditions wrought from a history of discrimination and economic inequality, overlaid with their own cultural heritage. From the 1960s to the 1980s, they formed bonds and shared concepts with kindred spirits, excelled in art achievements, and formed their own fellowships, creating a fabric of pan-Asian art. Moreover, non-Asian artists learned and benefited in crucial ways as they learned Asian art techniques and subject matter from API artists. After World War II, younger Asian American artists in Seattle rebuilt art-community ties. Community-focused art clubs nurtured and engaged artists of color, and less traditional venues augmented limited opportunities in galleries and museums for recognition. These artists found training opportunities in high schools and college-level art schools including the University of Washington and Cornish College of the Arts. The Wing Luke Asian Museum’s first Asian American invitational art exhibition, held in 1979 in its original space in the International District, featured 59 pan-Asian artists representing all art forms, selected by community-based curators. The success of this show encouraged the museum to continue to present fine arts by local API artists. From 1960s Jet Dreams to 21st Century Establishment Asian American and Pacific Islander artists, both native-born and those recently arrived from around the Pacific Rim, have come to expand the vocabulary and definitions of what makes the Seattle art world, some achieving renown and others still awaiting further recognition and celebration.