A Continuing Cultural Legacy

When a business disappears, whether bankrupt or acquired, few consider what happens to the art that once lined the corporate walls. Not so with Safeco, bought two years ago by Liberty Mutual. Safeco began amassing local art in 1973, a half century after its birth in Seattle. Over 800 pieces have now been generously donated to the Washington Arts Consortium (comprising seven museums including SAM), and today you can see 90-odd highlights from the previously private collection. Here are Roger Shimomura and Mark Tobey, Paul Horiuchi and George Tsutakawa (who crafted the fountain in front of Safeco Tower, now a UW office building), Jacob Lawrence and Norman Lundin. (And also Dale Chihuly; but we all made mistakes in the ’80s.) The roster of talent goes on and on. Not every artist is represented by his or her best work, but this selection (“A Continuing Cultural Legacy”) offers a survey of Northwest art running right up to 2008. And there are some interesting finds, like photographer Myra Albert Wiggins (1869-1956), whose Indian scene Unloading the Catch (1898) shows the influence of Edward Curtis and Alfred Stieglitz. My favorite oddball canvas on view is Glen Alps’ unruly 1947 Chicken in the Box; I wonder how many Safeco employees walked by the canvas over the years, unconsciously letting it determine their choice at lunch. BRIAN MILLER

Thursdays, Fridays, 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Starts: April 23. Continues through June 25, 2010