In early 2019, the Tacoma Art Museum proudly debuted their long-awaited expansion of the Benaroya Wing. The new 4,500-square-foot wing, showcasing the Benaroya Collection, was generously gifted to the museum by Becky Benaroya.

Becky and her late husband Jack are known prominently throughout the Northwest for their dedication to the community as philanthropists and devoted patrons of the arts. Largely known for funding the construction of Seattle’s beautiful Benaroya Hall, the couple generously supported our region’s major hospitals, medical institutes, charities and arts organizations.

Over the decades, the two passionately grew their collection of art throughout the course of their 70-year marriage. On the day of her 93rd birthday in 2016, Becky graciously donated their family’s entire private art collection to Tacoma Art Museum, along with $14 million for the construction of the new wing. Originally promising 235 pieces of art, Mrs. Benaroya thoughtfully contributed an additional 118 pieces, completing the collection with an outstanding total of 353 remarkable works of art, which she hopes will inspire generations to come.

Benaroya Collection
Debra Moore’s exhibit titled “Aboria,” translates to “resembling a tree” in Latin. Photo credit: Gabriella Kinner

The Benaroya Collection features a gallery rich with Pacific Northwest roots, showcasing studio glass art and works by artists affiliated with Pilchuck Glass School, including the school’s founder and Tacoma-native, Dale Chihuly. Founded in 1971 along with cofounders Anne Gould Huaberg and John Hauberg, Pilchuck started as a summer glassblowing workshop on a tree farm in Snohomish County where artists could experiment with glass and expand their creative horizons. Today the school is known as the most comprehensive center for glass art education in the world, establishing the Pacific Northwest as the nation’s mecca for studio glass art and as home to some of the world’s leading artists.

World-renowned glass artist, Dale Chihuly tells us, “Becky and Jack Benaroya were early supporters of Pilchuck and the artists who came there to explore the glass medium. Becky joined the Pilchuck board in 1981, but she and Jack were more than benefactors; they were our friends, and their encouragement was critical to so many of us. Because of their close relationship with the artists, Jack and Becky always knew when someone was doing something truly extraordinary. Their interest in the artists and our work led them to create one of the best private collections of studio glass that I’ve ever seen.”

Acknowledged as one of the most prestigious private collections of studio glass art in the United States, the Benaroya Collection has made Tacoma Art Museum home to one of the top five public studio glass art collections in the nation.

Tacoma Art Museum
Sculpture by Italian-born American artist, Italo Scanga, who taught regularly at Pilchuck Glass School. Photo credit: Gabriella Kinner

“The story of the Benaroya’s collection is really a story about the evolution of studio glass over the past 40 years, and the new Rebecca and Jack Benaroya Wing at Tacoma Art Museum, designed by architect Olson Kundig, is a great space to present the work,” Chihuly says.

Throughout the exhibit, you can expect to find exceptional works of handblown glass, stunning sculptures, and detailed displays featuring glass vessels, paintings, etchings, and more. Explore contemporary glass artist, Debra Moore’s enchanting forest, showcasing life-size trees adorned with glass blossoms and petals. Other major works by artists include Howard Ben Tré, William Morris, and Ginny Ruffner, as well as Seth Randal, Cappy Thompson, and Toots Zynsky. Visitors can also enjoy a number of paintings and sculptures by artists hailing from the Pacific Northwest and greater western region.

“Artists working in glass, and there are more today than ever before, are helping to redefine the medium and its possibilities,” Chihuly states. “I see artists mixing glass with other materials and weaving glass into their work in surprising ways. They’re exploring, experimenting, and helping the medium evolve. It’s an exciting time.”

Tacoma Art Museum has celebrated the art and artists of the Pacific Northwest for over 80 years since the museum’s founding in 1935. Being located just steps away from the Museum of Glass and the iconic Chihuly Bridge of Glass, Tacoma has drawn the attention of art lovers both locally and internationally.

Experience The Benaroya Collection firsthand as it tells the innovative story of the Northwest’s artistic influence, the studio glass art movement, and Pilchuck Glass School.

Tacoma Art Museum is located at 1701 Pacific Avenue in downtown Tacoma, and is open to the public Tuesday through Sunday, with free admission every Thursday evening. Visit the museum’s website to learn more about The Benaroya Collection.

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