A&E Pick of the Week

The cityscape of the Seattle area seems to change every day. There’s so much construction that Seattle’s been the U.S. city with the most cranes for much of the past five years. The cranes move around as projects begin and end, but the construction feels constant.

This rapidly changing cityscape in Seattle and Bellevue inspired the theme for Bellevue Arts Museum’s Biennial 2021, which runs from Nov. 5 to April 24, 2022, and will highlight art about architecture and urban design. The biennial started in 2010 and is a juried exhibition accepting entries from all over the Northwest with an emphasis on new work. This year’s biennial will be the first focused on a theme instead of a medium. The past five were focused on single materials: fiber, clay, wood, metal and glass. 

Lane Eagles, the associate curator for the museum, says the biennial received around 130 entries, of which around 30 will be on display. Most of the artists are from Washington, with a couple from other states in the Northwest. An in-house jury will choose one of the participating artists to have a solo exhibition at BAM and receive a $5,000 prize. Visitors will also be able to vote for the winner of a people’s choice award, who will also receive $5,000. 

Eagles says the art styles at this year’s biennial range from sculptures made of all kinds of materials, architectural models, multimedia art and more. The theme also allows for including people whose work might not normally be featured in an art museum, like architects working at Seattle firms including LMN Architects, Johnston Architects and Paul Michael Davis Architects.

“I think everyone will get something out of it,” Eagles says. “And I think everyone will learn something about space and architecture and geography and the spaces that surround us.”

Beyond architecture firms, the biennial also includes a government agency. The Sound Transit Art Program will have an exhibit with prototypes and videos previewing the work of the 26 artists with works at the new stations along Sound Transit’s East Link Extension, which will connect Seattle’s Chinatown International District, Judkins Park, Mercer Island, Bellevue and Redmond. 


The Sound Transit exhibit, unlike the rest of the biennial, will be free and in the Community Education Gallery on the first floor. On display, among other pieces, will be the prototype of two dragonlike cut-metal creatures designed by artist Louie Gong that will cover the platform walls of the Bellevue Spring District/120th Station, says Sound Transit public art manager Barbara Luecke. Other displays will feature videos showing how the work of artists Kenji Hamai Stoll and Vicki Scuri are being scaled to create massive pieces at other stations.

Eagles says many of the pieces in the biennial have never been seen by the public before. And some of the artists, like University of Washington art professor Rebecca Cummins, are building structures responding to the shape of the BAM building. The museum itself is a compelling piece of architecture built out of long curves and geometric shapes, designed by award-winning architect and University of Washington graduate Steven Holl.

Eagles says some other pieces in the biennial will examine the ideas of sustainability in architecture and question what materials we consider beautiful. Portland-based brothers Santigie and Sapata Fofana-Dura are building a huge interactive structure out of reclaimed wood. And Satpreet Kahlon, a Seattle-based artist, is also building a structure from reclaimed and recycled objects.

All the pieces, she says, will make visitors think about how the spaces around them shape their lives and will help them appreciate the artistry in the buildings around them. 

“Architecture is essentially sculpture writ large, right?” Eagles says. “It’s sculpture that we can all walk into, and we can all interact with.”

BAM Biennial 2021: Architecture & Urban Design

Nov. 5- April 24, 2022; Bellevue Arts Museum, 510 Bellevue Way N.E.; $15 adults, $8 youths ages 7-17, $12 seniors, students and people in the military, $35 families; Sound Transit exhibit on first floor is free; masks and proof of vaccination or a negative coronavirus test within last 72 hours required; bellevuearts.org