The Pacific Northwest art scene is about to take a permanent island detour. From February 14 to May 13, the San Juan Islands Museum of Art—known as IMA—will feature internationally recognized glass artist, William Morris, at its opening show. For the previous decade, IMA has attracted award-winning artists from the US and beyond to exhibit in whatever space it temporarily called home. Now with an ultra-modern home of its own, IMA is eager to decorate its 20-foot-high glass atrium and interior gallery space with world-class art to rival that of any city’s art scene.
Past the ferry landing at Friday Harbor, past the outdoor sculptures and the galleries, past the collage of nature and architecture, is IMA—the first fine art museum on the San Juan Islands. But that’s not the only reason why IMA is turning heads. “The design looks like it belongs in a big city,” said one local resident. Exactly the point, said the team of staff and artists behind IMA.
The building’s unique design is “literally edgy,” said Executive Director of IMA Board of Trustees, Charlie Bodenstab. “It’s meant to be interesting from all angles.” The repurposed emergency medical building has all the drama of a show-stopping art venue, without the costly add-ons common in other museums. Instead of a café or gift shop, resources were spent erecting the east-facing glass atrium at the front of IMA. With streams of ever-changing natural light, the glass surface acts like a two-story tall painting of the surrounding scenery.
But the drama doesn’t stop there. “The [interior] space will transform with each show,” said IMA Marketing Director, Rebecca Parks. Shifting walls and changing colors might be common practice for larger art museums, but at IMA, even small changes have a big effect. And considering that IMA does not own a permanent collection, the only constant element at this museum will be its constant reinvention.
It’s no wonder that IMA chose the culturally diverse glass sculptures by William Morris for its opening show. Morris’ sculptures offer a unique mix of ancient civilizations where he takes his inspiration, and his own fresh perspective—just as IMA offers a fresh perspective on an already rich island art scene.
Along with a fresh outlook, IMA will continue to bring big-name artists to the island. Following Morris’ show, IMA will feature the marine photography of Susan Middleton, who was featured recently in New York Times and Smithsonian.
But even big names and an edgy building won’t change IMA’s small-town heart. With free admission every day, IMA brings fine art to more than art lovers and collectors. “[IMA] is for the kayakers and campers on a rainy day,” Park said.
“It’s for [local] kids to grow up knowing what an art museum is.” IMA will also be a place to discover new artists, from the local artist whose studio is deep in the woods, to the artist who emerges out of IMA’s workshops. In short, IMA adds a whole new draw to the San Juan Islands.