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Published October 24th 2012
Best Free Art Museum in Seattle
"The Frye", as it's fondly referred to by Seattlites, is located on Seattle's first hill, is a local treasure and is not to be missed. Apart from its rich art the Frye Art Museum offers the added bonus of free admission and parking. Charles & Emma Frye began collecting in 1888 and their personal art collection was eventually gifted in perpetuity to the people of Seattle.
This generous gift became the Founding Collection of the Frye Art Museum. After Charles' death in 1940, the executor of Frye's will, Walser Sly Greathouse, administered the establishment of the Museum and became its first director in 1952. After Greathouse died in 1966, his widow Ida Kay directed the Museum until her retirement in 1993.
Charles was the son of German immigrants who moved to America to farm in Iowa. Aged 30, Charles moved to Seattle, where he became a successful businessman. He and his wife, Emma, were avid collectors and patrons of the arts. Charles developed this passion after viewing his first oil painting at the age of 35. The couple displayed their paintings in their private quarters and in a purpose-built exhibition space attached to their home. They were well known on the social circuit for their lavish parties in the facility.
On any given day, (except Monday), visitors will be impressed with the dual shows that always co-exhibit. One is the Founding Collection of late-nineteenth and early-twentieth-century European art. Pieces are rotated as there are over 700 pieces in archival storage. The Museum is also dedicated to showcasing contemporary art; the catalyst for this arises partially from the collecting practice of the Fryes . They deliberately focused on contemporary and local artists, often buying directly from the artist in his studio.
Built in 1994 the current museum is a state of the art facility- housing not only the impressive art collection, but light & airy studio/classroom spaces to conduct ongoing classes. These classes and activities range from free Mindfulness Meditation on Wednesdays, art history lectures, afternoon teas led by volunteer docents on Tuesdays, storytelling for children, pertinent movies, concerts, to "Saturday in the studio".
It's always a delight to finish off a Frye visit with refreshment in the Gallery Café where you might spy made-from -scratch delectable treats including wholesome soups & pastries. Diners can opt for sipping a glass of wine in the courtyard , viewing garden and fountain as they nibble. Not a surprise in such a quality establishment is the variety of products in the gift shop. Prices there, too, are reasonable.
The Frye is open Tuesday to Sunday 11-5 and Thursday 11-7. Monday closed as is typical of Museums. For further information please visit the