It's not hard to find Bainbridge Island's newest cultural hub—simply get off the boat. Located at the first intersection beyond the ferry terminal, Bainbridge Island Museum of Art aims to be a welcoming sight for visitors to the island and a civic center for its residents. The museum boasts an intense focus on Puget Sound artists—and free admission. BIMoA celebrates its grand opening June 14 with a full day of festivities, including art demonstations and a performance by the Bainbridge Symphony Brass.

Executive director and chief curator Greg Robinson filled us in on the new museum's mission, the artists within, and how it's a "living room" for the community.

Why did Bainbridge need an art museum?

There hasn’t been a contemporary visual arts museum in the West Sound region, and when I talk about that, I’m really referring to Kitsap and Olympic Peninsula. There’s a growing population over there that doesn’t have direct access to an art museum. So that’s one way to look at it. Another is that our focus is different from the larger regional museums. We’re focused on artists who, for the most part, are lesser known and really local. The focus we have is on the Puget Sound region, from artists that live and work here, or special collections that exist here. All of the regional museums incorporate local artists, and even to some degree emerging artists, but this will be our sole focus.

How does the museum fit into the Bainbridge community?

When we started to do the building design we said, “As long as we’re planning this art museum, what else could we incorporate that the community could need?” There is an auditorium that seats about 95 people and we have two classrooms. We’re kind of adding to the ability for a lot of groups that don’t have a home: doing small-scale performances, puppet shows, lectures, seminars, musical performances, and all kinds of community groups, corporations, private parties. ... It goes beyond the visual arts mission that we have.

Sustainability is another key part of that mission, correct?

We project to be the first LEED Gold certified art museum in Washington state that is based on new construction. ... We have incorporated a variety of things, including geothermal energy. We have 14 geothermal welds behind the building that go down as deep as 400 feet. We have solar power on the roof. We’ve used a lot of recycled and renewable materials, including a stage in the auditorium that’s made from bamboo.

It’s not only how we designed our building. It will be reflected in some of the exhibitions we plan in the future. Margie McDonald is an artist from Port Townsend, and she has an exhibition going in the Beacon Gallery. She uses recycled wire, old gutters, and copper spools, and she’s creating this big undersea world out of recycled materials. It was important for us to involve emerging artists, which she is, to speak about the environment, which her work does, and to also reference things we think are important to us because we live in this region. Her undersea world of recycled materials touches on all of those areas.

What works on display at the opening really excite you?

There are many, actually. Margie McDonald, that excites me because it’s her first museum show in this region. We have some master artists who will be on display [Roger Shimomura, Alfredo Arreguin]. We have an opening group exhibition called “First Light.” It involved about six other people guest curating the show with me, so we’re drawing a diverse array of art from the Puget Sound region. Julie Speidel, who works on Vashon Island, has a wonderful sculpture and we’ve placed it in the lobby of the museum. It’s really kind of a welcoming piece.

We also will be featuring a few jewelry artists. Craft is a big part of our mission, so we’ll be including ceramics, jewelry, wood, and some furniture pieces. I think that’s a piece that’s not featured as much in other regional museums.

What makes the museum worth the ferry trip for Seattleites?

I think people will see, for the most part, art they haven’t been exposed to in depth. Also, our admission will be free due to sponsorships. Partly because of where we’re located, we want to be really open and accessible to the public. It doesn’t mean that we are endowed and don’t need financial support; it just means it’s so important for us to achieve that.

What are the goals for the museum going forward?

From an exhibition point of view, my goal would be to show a diverse array of artists in all mediums and different levels of their career—solo shows and group shows. We don’t have a particular point of view, but we just want to draw from the diversity of the region. From a community point of view, we hope to really serve our local community, which is really more the Kitsap area, and provide a home for various nonprofits that may not have sufficient space to do different things. In a way, to kind of be a living room for the community.

Bainbridge Island Museum of Art
Opens June 14