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Seattle Art Museum Libraries: Digital Collections

New Beginnings: 1992-99

Annual Report Cover (1992-93)

1992-93

Reports in the 1990s

SAM did not publish financial reports from 1986-1991, so the collection resumes with the 1992-93 Report for the Fiscal Year. It was a landmark year for SAM with the opening of the new downtown location, which enabled a previously unprecedented expansion of museum facilities. This was truly the "beginning of a new era." Faye Sarkowsky, president for the 1992-93 report, noted:

This was the year after the year of Grand Opening. What can you say about it; what excitement can equal that grand first year of finally being downtown in our beautiful new building, with international recognition, record-breaking attendance and store sales, and soaring membership numbers. You will be surprised, I think, when you read this report and see that the grand opening was not an anomaly but the celebration of the beginning of a new era for the Seattle Art Museum. (1992-93)

The 1990s were about new beginnings, but also returning to and celebrating the museum’s roots. The following fiscal year, 1993-94, saw SAM preparing to reopen the historic Volunteer Park building as the Seattle Asian Art Museum, a move that “renewed...commitment to the city's past as well as its future." SAM defined and embraced its important role in Seattle's cultural landscape:

In a time when Seattle is quickly changing and establishing itself as a city of the world, its success may be judged only as deep as its humanity: the stewardship of its culture and history, the embrace of community, and the foresight in laying a foundation for the future. The Seattle Art Museum has come to symbolize the best of these civic trusts. (1993-94)

The duality of past and future, of "going forward while looking back" is pervasive in the reports during this time: 

By preserving and presenting historical and contemporary art to an ever-broadening audience, SAM offers a dynamic microcosm of the past and future. Enthusiastically embracing the future, we also look back with gratitude to those whose artistry, creativity, and generosity have brought us so far. In this year of incredible movement, we stop for a moment to consider and acknowledge all that has been achieved. (1993-94)

Appropriately for this embrace of both past and future, change and progress were also a theme:

Stability, it seems, is a state of grace often sought but seldom achieved. We resist change, and dread so-called periods of transition. But time and again, we find that these difficult times of change bring us to new levels of achievement and higher stages of wisdom. Change, in fact, is a sign of life, of vitality, and the Seattle Art Museum is a vital institution, a lively part of Seattle's vibrant community. (1993-94)

In this passage, President Faye Sarkowsky is referring to the acquisition of land to begin construction on the new Olympic Sculpture Park, a landmark project to revitalize an industrial waterfront area with a permanent outdoor display of sculpture works. Even as there was a return to the museum’s beginnings with the opening of SAAM in Volunteer Park, SAM looked to the future for this particular outdoor expansion.

Once again, the reports began to be published in full color with images not only of acquisitions for the year but also photographs from the many evening events and educational programs offered in the new downtown building. At the same time, there is a new emphasis on the articulation of the importance of art, and SAM's role in connecting art to life. For example, the 1996-97 report - entitled "Why is Art Important?" - notes "Each object in our museum is the visual distillation of one person's or group's sense of beauty, inspiration, power." Other similar statements about the meaning of art are sprinkled throughout the publication. Here, SAM begins to formally express exactly what makes a museum so compelling. By reflecting on the past, celebrating the present, and looking to the future, SAM's vision for what it is and what it can be truly crystallizes and emerges in these reports.