The Washington Art Consortium, founded by local philanthropist Virginia Wright when boosters were trying to build Seattle’s arts infrastructure, decides to dissolve.
The Washington Art Consortium (WAC) has decided to disband.
Founded in the early 1970s, it was the brainchild of Seattle arts philanthropist Virginia Wright, who negotiated with the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) to get federal money to bring serious artworks — mostly drawings on paper and photographs, since they were easier to ship and store — to the Northwest.
In a statement, WAC said it had completed its mission, and its collection of 411 works by 175 artists (including Jackson Pollock, Arshile Gorky and Roy Lichtenstein) will be distributed to six of its member museums, including the Henry Art Gallery at the University of Washington, the Western Gallery at Western Washington University and Tacoma Art Museum.
Chiyo Ishikawa at Seattle Art Museum (SAM), who worked with WAC during SAM’s expansion, said the consortium was part of the “vision of the 1960s,” when philanthropists like Wright banded together to build the city’s cultural infrastructure: museums, a symphony, an opera, theaters, art collections. “These were enlightened thinkers who had a vision for Seattle,” Ishikawa said, “and we’ve all been the beneficiaries of that.”
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Wright, she added, was canny about raising federal funds for the WAC project. She’d imagined a $200,000 budget to bring the works to the Northwest, but the NEA said they could only give one $20,000 grant to one arts entity — so Wright wrangled for a joint grant involving several Northwest galleries and museums that would own the artworks collectively and, together, could win a bigger grant.
“It was very clever,” Ishikawa said.
“Since this consortium was launched,” WAC board president (and Henry director) Sylvia Wolf wrote in a statement, “the visual arts in Washington have grown to an entirely new level … the landscape has changed for the better.”
In other words: WAC has decided its work is done.