Staircase at Wing Luke

I stopped by the newly opened Wing Luke Asian Museum on Wednesday. It was so new the smell of the recently applied paint caused me to have a headache. No, it was not a tumor. 

The musem still have some issues to iron out. I arrived just in time to witness an Asian lady unbraid some poor volunteer for the museum not having signs for the bathroom. Take a chill pill, lady. This was the same lady who seemed to boast that she had given the museum a $20 check for her and her companion. Admission was $8, so she gave the museum four extra George Washingtons to make her feel special. She had more important things to do though, because she left after 10 minutes.

Not that there was that much to see anyway. The museum most likely opened a few weeks too early. There were only two main galleries open. The Community Portrait Galleries, which sounded interesting in the program, were empty.

There weren’t that many exhibits, especially for the $8 admission price — $9.50 if you wanted the Immersion tour, which I paid for (more on that later).

The George Tsutakawa Art Gallery was nice. That’s all I can really say about it. Nice. If you’ve ever been to the Seattle Public Library, you may recognize his work, the water fountain, “Fountain of Wisdom,” at the 4th avenue entrance. Perhaps it was the headache or the mild sweat that I was experiencing, but I just didn’t connect with the exhibit. One interesting nugget, however. His son, Gerry, sculpted the baseball mitt outside Safeco Field.

The other gallery, “Honoring Our Journey”, was a hodgepodge of pieces. It was like Asian-American studies 101 packed into 1,200 square feet. It lacked cohesion, in my humble and uncultured opinion. Again, it could’ve been the fumes.

So I went on the one-hour Immersion tour, led by Vi Mar, a wonderfully earnest woman. She led us to a section of the museum that was closed to the general public. It was preserved to look like the hotel that housed immigrants from China, Japan and the Philippines (the picture above is of the “old” hotel). Overall, the tour was underwhelming. I didn’t feel like I was immersed in much. I assume the five other people who went on the tour felt the same way.

Yet, I’m happy to see this museum in the heart of Chinatown. I remember going to the old Wing Luke, it was dark, tucked away, cramped. This museum is impressive, especially the entryway and main staircases. But I think the museum’s exhibits will never be its strength. The museum will flourish if it opens up its public spaces — the meetings rooms, the reflection areas, the library, the theater — to the community. And perhaps cut the admission by a couple bucks.

Here’s a link to a few photos of my trip.