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Memorial grows outside Seattle Asian Art Museum following vigil against racial hate and violence

Seattle Art Museum officials and community representatives gathered Saturday morning for a vigil outside Capitol Hill’s Seattle Asian Art Museum for a moment of silence as part of a weekend memorial to the lives lost in anti-Asian violence following wave of increased hate crimes in the county.

“For me, it’s ironic that we’re meeting here today in front of the museum, because for me, the museum is a place of learning. I have learned so much about the history of this whole world, through all the beautiful artwork that people have created,” June Kubo, a member of SAM’s Education & Community Engagement Committee, said during a brief ceremony on the steps of the museum overlooking Volunteer Park. “It’s sort of like a window into the past, but more importantly, I’ve learned a lot about what people have done to each other, for the artists who have created exhibits that help us understand the inhumane treatment that we have put imposed upon others, just because they don’t look like us, or because they’re from different areas.”

“I’m hoping that more people can enjoy the museum and understand the, the tragedies that we’ve created for ourselves,” Kubo said. “And maybe we can learn from the past that we need to find ways to change things.”

Saturday’s vigil and the weekend memorial comes in the wake of the Atlanta shootings and a rise in reported racially motivated hate crimes in Seattle and across the nation as rhetoric about the “China virus” flared.

While the museum has not yet reopened after months of COVID-19 restrictions, Asian Art Museum officials were moved to speak out about the violence and to provide a space for people to come together — safely — for their own moments of silence and to leave flowers and offerings on the steps of the museum:

In recognition of these lives taken so violently, we invite you to take a moment of silence on the steps of the Asian Art Museum. A community memorial will be available for the public to contribute to and visit from Noon on Saturday, March 27, through 5 pm Sunday, March 28.

“We are here to stand with colleagues, partners, and friends. We are here to mourn. And to remember, we are here to say that racism and violence against people of Asian descent will not be tolerated,” Seattle Art Museum CEO Amada Cruz said.

Curator Ping Foong, credited by Cruz for inspiring the memorial, focused on the Seattle Asian Art Museum and its collections can play in addressing the hate.

“Let us agree to use this space, this beautiful building behind me and the art within, use the space with impact as a space where we talk to each other connect here of experiences and voices from Asian cultures past and present. Use it as a platform for learning, reflecting, and outreach so that we can find a way to confront injustice and together address the roots of systemic racism and actions against communities that are suffering Asian Pacific Islander, Black, immigrant, LGBTQ, and others,” the Foster Foundation Curator of Chinese Art for the museum said.

“Use this space to find solace, to recover from the deeply connected traumas of the pandemic and racial injustice. Use the space. This is yours. It is everyone’s.”

Memorial flowers and offerings were left surrounding one of the museum’s iconic camel statues. The Chinese statues have been part of the museum since its opening in 1933 though the originals — dating to the late 14th-mid-17th century — were moved to the main downtown SAM and replaced by sturdier replicas in 1991.

Museum officials said the memorial will remain in place throughout Sunday on the steps of the SAAM inside Volunteer Park.


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