The L. T. Murrays present Tacoma Art Museum with a downtown building in 1971.

  • By Priscilla Long
  • Posted 1/27/2003
  • Essay 5135

In 1971, the L. T. Murray family (owners of the Northwest timber firm Murray Pacific) presents the Tacoma Art Museum with an elegant three-story building at 12th Street and Pacific Avenue. Built in 1922, the building at 1123 Pacific Avenue was formerly the National Bank of Tacoma, and provides a secure structure to house precious artworks.

The Tacoma Art Museum developed out of the Tacoma Art League, which was founded in 1891. It was incorporated as the Tacoma Art Society in the 1930s and took its present name in 1964. Since 1934 the museum has built a permanent collection that includes works by Mary Cassatt, Edgar Degas, Edward Hopper, Jacob Lawrence, Robert Rauschenberg, Pierre Auguste Renoir, John Singer Sargent, and Andrew Wyeth.

The museum has been exhibiting works by the Pacific Northwest glass artist Dale Chihuly since 1968. Chihuly grew up in Tacoma. Other Pacific Northwest artists represented include painters Rick Bartow, Fay Jones, and Jacob Lawrence, and printmaker Anne Siems, among many others. The museum also showcases traveling exhibitions such “Picasso: Ceramics from the Marina Picasso Collection” and “Landscape in America 1850-1890.”

In May 2003, the Tacoma Art Museum moved into a new building located at 1701 Pacific Avenue. Designed by Antoine Predock, the 50,000-foot building has a stainless steel and glass exterior. The Museum appointed a new chief curator, Patricia McDonnell, in May 2002. McDonnell was chief curator and adjunct art history professor at the Frederick R. Weisman Art Museum at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis.


Ruth Kirk and Carmela Alexander, Exploring Washington's Past: A Road Guide to History (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1990), 336; Harry Martin and Caroline Kellogg, Tacoma: a Pictorial History (Virginia Beach, VA: The Donning Co. Publishers, 1981), 189; "New Curator in Tacoma," Seattle Post-Intelligencer, May 6, 2002; Tacoma Art Museum Website (
Note: This essay was updated on February 23, 2007.

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