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Art museum blooms in Tacoma

Four blocks from its old quarters, the glass-and-steel building takes its place as part of the $1-billion renovation of the formerly seedy downtown.

May 04, 2003|Catharine Hamm | Times Staff Writer

Tacoma, Wash. — The Tacoma Art Museum is celebrating its move to a new building, and although the new place is just four blocks away, it's a world apart from the onetime bank building it had called home since 1971.

The $22-million structure, which was to have opened this weekend, was designed by Antoine Predock, whose architectural credits include the new ballpark under construction in San Diego.

On a clear day, visitors can see Mt. Rainier across the Thea Foss Waterway. The 50,000-square-foot museum boasts 12,000 square feet of gallery space, which will feature work by artists of the Pacific Northwest, Japanese woodblock prints and the museum's biggest prize: Renoir's 1881 "Two Sisters." Also on permanent display will be early works of native son and glass artist Dale Chihuly. A special Chihuly work, "Mille Fiori," will be displayed at the museum for six months and then dismantled.

The sharp-angled glass-and-steel building fits snugly into the reemerging Tacoma downtown along Pacific Avenue, once the home of clubs, bars and questionable retail transactions.

The neighborhood includes the domed Union Station, which underwent a $57-million refurbishment in 1992 and serves as a sort of grand entryway for the federal courthouse; the $41-million Washington State History Museum, opened in 1996; and the Museum of Glass, which opened in July. The University of Washington, Tacoma, has been converting warehouses and other spaces into a handsome urban campus since 1997.

The projects, which will be linked by a five-stop light-rail system starting in September, are part of nearly $1 billion in improvements to downtown.

The art museum was to have had a 24-hour public party beginning Saturday celebrating its new digs, with music, glassblowing and after-midnight pizza.

Museum admission is $6.50 for adults, $5.50 for students, seniors and members of the military; children younger than 6 are admitted free. Open daily until Sept. 1, then closed Mondays for the season. Hours vary. 1701 Pacific Ave. (253) 272-4258, www.TacomaArtMuseum.org.

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