Visual Art

Art After-Hours: Where to Go This First Thursday

Museums are free, galleries stay open late. So…many…choices…

By Laura Dannen February 3, 2011


This First Thursday, we’re celebrating Lunar New Year by starting at the Wing Luke Museum. Their latest exhibit, Cultural Confluence, tells the story of urbanites of mixed Asian-Native American descent and what it means to be "native" when so many live off the reservation. Stop in for the video tribute to woodcarver John T. Williams.

But it’s the historic hotel tour that’s the hidden gem here. Even if you’re a local, you might have missed the rickety staircase just to the left of the Wing Luke entrance in the same East Kong Yick building. Those creaky boards lead up to the remnants of a 100-year-old migrant hotel that used to be a second home for Chinese laborers. It’s like the set of an old western: hardwood everything, narrow hallways, low tin ceilings, rooms with the kind of metal-frame beds suited for military barracks and college dorm rooms. You almost feel like the tenants just stepped out for a minute, considering the wealth of abandoned photos, hairbrushes, steamer trunks, and a too-tiny faded vest and suit jacket, hanging neatly on the back of a chair. It’s a time warp in here.

There’s one room dedicated to Family Association meetings, with an long oaken table fit for a banquet hall, another room just for mahjong. And though we didn’t get to experience this, we hear that a couple in their eighties leads the tour and has lots of great slow-cooking stories to tell. For fans of the Underground Tour, this is a nerdy slice of paradise.

The tours are $8.95-$12.95 for 45 minutes, and you have to step out earlier in the day to catch them (they only run 10:30-3:30). But now that you’re out, you might as well swing by the Frye Art Museum on First Hill, where Singaporean artist Ming Wong has put together a very impressive collection of Southeast Asian movie memorabilia and new work exploring identity in its many forms—language, race, gender, nationality—through the lens of Singaporean cinema of the 1950s and ’60s. "The glory days of national cinema," as he calls it. Though it’s easy to miss, check the hallway to the right of the exhibit for a five-minute documentary on the making of the exhibit’s vibrant billboards by Singapore’s last remaining billboard artist, Neo Chon Teck.

View the slideshow above for a glimpse of everything.

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