Mayfield: Despite the Museum of Museums closure, art will still thrive

Aug 4, 2023, 9:22 AM | Updated: 9:46 am

museum art closure...

(Photo from Janet Galore, CC BY-SA 4.0)

(Photo from Janet Galore, CC BY-SA 4.0)

It’s a sad day when art dies and a worse day when we have one fewer place to experience and embrace art.

Today is one of those days in our city. The Museum of Museums on First Hill just announced it is closing. The little, vibrant, glowing, white, mid-century building that sits right next to Swedish Hospital has been home to art for just three years. But what a run it has been.

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The man behind the museum, Bob Lundgren, found the building derelict and basically abandoned. He gathered his team, gutted it, rebuilt it, restocked it with art everywhere. Every room in the museum was something special, even the bathrooms, which were fully immersive art experiences just by themselves.

The Seattle Times reported on Lundgren’s decision late Thursday, writing that he was flooded out both literally by bad pipes and figuratively, by the financial toll fixing those things would take.

I was lucky enough to have visited the Museum of Museums on multiple occasions. Over the last number of years, the art was often quirky, fun, expressive, bright, and joyful. It was big, bold, and drew you right into its heart.

But there was more to the Museum of Museums, something that will ensure its place in art and art history lives on for years to come. The reason I visited so often is because, multiple times a year, Bob devoted multiple walls in his small museum to showcasing the art of school children, including my own children’s art.

Each fall and each spring, young artists from Montlake Elementary School would roll up their sleeves with Bob’s sister, who is the art teacher at Montlake, the beloved Ms. Lundgren, and plunge headlong into self-portraits, clay sculpting, and much more.

When finished, those little mini masterpieces were hung with care at the Museum of Museums, and the community was invited for an art opening and an art party.

Kids would start asking weeks in advance if everyone in the family would attend. They would excitedly point from the car windows while parking near the museum. They would pull parents and grandparents by hands inside and then point and point and point, beaming with pride ‘I made that! We made that!’ It is art so good, it belongs in a museum.

As parents, it was always a special evening seeing our kids as artists and gallerists, curators and storytellers. Those nights were something special, though, it was a chance for our young artists to see other art and meet other artists.

It taught them that art doesn’t have to wait, the galleries and museums are for them too. Those are things kids hold on to for a day, a week, a lifetime. I know with all my heart artists will grow from these memories, ones who paint, sing, dance, play, or sculpt and who move people, who give to others with their gifts.

The Museum of Museums may be closing a building, but the art and the artists it has born will live on for a lifetime in this city and maybe beyond.

Listen to Seattle’s Morning News with Dave Ross and Colleen O’Brien weekday mornings from 5 – 9 a.m. on KIRO Newsradio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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Mayfield: Despite the Museum of Museums closure, art will still thrive