Bellevue Arts Museum ARTSfair

The History of BAM ARTSfair and Bellevue Arts Museum

"BAM is a rarity. It grew out of an art fair and partnerships between thousands of volunteers and art patrons, not from a collection donated by major collectors. The Museum and the Fair are a regional treasure."

Sherry Grindland, Art: A Fair Legacy, The Journey from Fair to Museum


Arts & Crafts Fair1947: The first arts and crafts fair (now BAM ARTSfair) is held in a small upstart shopping center called Bellevue Square. It is organized by the Freeman family and a handful of dedicated community volunteers, who later form the Pacific Northwest Arts & Crafts Association (PANACA). Despite several downpours throughout the weekend, nearly 30,000 people come to see the art and shop from 70 regional artists.




Patron Party1953: The Patron Party, Bellevue's most fashionable event, is born. Guests receive the first pick of works by fair artists with proceeds going towards the three-day festival. This tradition lives on in what has evolved into Artful Evening, BAM's most important fundraiser of the year.


1961: Bellevue is booming. The Association opens PANACA Gallery in Bellevue Square to help promote artists year-round. They also make it their goal to establish a cultural and educational center with the mission to "bring art and people together."


Bellevue Art Museum1975: The fair energy transitions into the birth of Bellevue Art Museum. The Museum is initially housed in the Little Red Schoolhouse and later moves into a former funeral home.


1983: BAM opens on the third floor in Bellevue Square with a series of ambitious exhibitions, including the spectacular Floyd and Carol Whittington Collection of Southeast Asian Art.


Bellevue Arts Museum2001: Bellevue Art Museum moves into its first purpose-built home, designed by renowned architect Stephen Holl. The bold red color of the building is a homage to the Little Red Schoolhouse, the original home of the Museum.


2005: Tapping back into the Museum's original roots, Bellevue Arts Museum opens its doors with a revitalized mission of art, craft and design and an emphasis on regional artists. An "s" is added to "Arts," symbolizing the inclusion of craft and design. The Museum today serves 360,000 people through all of its exhibitions, programs and the annual BAM ARTSfair.


2016: BAM ARTSfair celebrates its 70th anniversary!