Food & Drink

Best of 2019: Seattle Museum and Art Space Openings

The Burke Museum’s modern makeover celebrates transparency

By Gemma Wilson December 18, 2019


This article originally appeared in the December 2019 issue of Seattle magazine.

This article appears in print in the December 2019 issue as part of our Best of 2019 cover story. Click here to subscribe.

Moving the bones was the easy part. The hard part, says Burke Museum executive director Dr. Julie K. Stein, was transporting, via fallible human hands, the 2,000-year-old Cypriot glass from the old Burke Museum to its new building 400 yards away. From May 2018 through March 1, 2019, staffers of the natural history and culture museum relocated millions of objects from their collection into the airy, welcoming new space on the University of Washington campus. But for Stein, the work began much earlier. A building upgrade has been on her agenda since she became executive director in 2005; a fundraising campaign began in earnest in 2008. The $99 million project, led by architect Tom Kundig of Olson Kundig, broke ground in 2016 and opened to the public in October of this year.

The idea was huge but simple. “The vision for the new Burke was to allow everyone access that formerly only people on behind-the-scenes tours could get,” Stein said at a museum preview in September. “[So that] every day, every person could see into the collections, could see people working in the labs and the workrooms, and understand through the galleries why it was important to have these objects and to take care of them.”

Works by indigenous artists decorate the walls and honor the tribal land on which the museum sits. On-site food comes from Off the Rez Café, the first brick-and-mortar location of the popular food truck. The bulk of the space is unfussy, with high ceilings, huge windows and big open spaces. The simplicity allows flexibility, an important element for a museum with ever-evolving needs—who knows what the collection will look like in the future? Sixty percent of the new Burke is visible to the public, compared to 30% in the old space.

In 1885, a group of young naturalists, alarmed by the rapid change in our region, began collecting the objects that would coalesce as the Burke Museum. By showcasing today’s museum as the living organism that it is, the new Burke seeks to forge community connections not only to the museum but to our shared natural and cultural histories.

Open Season
A new city-run space is an arts-community game changer

Arts at King Street Station formally opened in March with yəhaw̓, a radically inclusive exhibit of indigenous art, which featured work by every artist who submitted art to the show. But the space, operated by the Office of Arts & Culture, is much more than a gallery. After yəhaw̓ closed in August, the next project in the space was Tagalog sa King Street, a collection of one-act plays performed in Tagalog with English subtitles and shadow puppetry; an open rehearsal process culminated in free performances in October. In November, Ethnic Heritage Art Gallery opened a group exhibition showcasing local artists of color during Pioneer Square Art Walk.

What’s next? That’s up to you. All artist proposals are welcome—performances, screenings, workshops, readings, you name it; the flexible space can suit any medium. Arts at King Street Station was “conceived to increase opportunities for people of color to generate and present their work and to reflect and foster the creativity and talents of people that continue to create the fabric of Seattle.” No professional experience is necessary, applications are rolling, and financial support is available. What are you waiting for?

Contact deputy editor Gemma Wilson at or follow her on Twitter at @gemmaswilson.

Follow Us

Celebrating the Spot Prawn

Celebrating the Spot Prawn

The season is short. Don’t miss out.

The delicate, subtle flavor of the body, the complex savoriness the shell infuses into broths, and the firm meat make spot shrimp an unbelievable delicacy, though also a relatively unknown one...

Seattle's Most Exciting Restaurant Openings 

Seattle’s Most Exciting Restaurant Openings 

Check out these four new restaurants as the weather heats up

As Seattle warms up to summer weather, so too does the restaurant scene, with a bunch of exciting restaurant openings this month and next — some already in soft opening and waiting for you to come sample creative Vietnamese food and crunch through Lebanese tacos. Lupe’s Situ Tacos Opening mid-May A pandemic pop-up that spent…

‘10 Things I Hate About You' Turns 25 

‘10 Things I Hate About You’ Turns 25 

Tour 10 locations from the iconic '90s movie filmed in Seattle and Tacoma

Released 25 years ago in 1999, 10 Things I Hate About You perfectly encapsulates the '90s and stands out as an excellent adaptation of Shakespeare. It’s Heath Ledger’s American debut and a travel postcard from Seattle and Tacoma to the world. So, get those cameras ready and crank up Letters to Cleo — let’s hit the

Uncommon Thinkers: Sam Cho

Uncommon Thinkers: Sam Cho

Director, Strategic Initiatives, Office of the Mayor. Commissioner, Port of Seattle

Not many can say they were elected to public office before the age of 30. Fewer can still say that, by the time they did so, they'd founded and sold a business. #UncommonThinkersWelcome Photo by Andrew Ge