Four score years and a couple of months ago, in 1927, the Henry Art Gallery first opened its doors. Coincidentally, it was also 1927 that Georges LeMaitre, priest and scientist, revealed what has come to be known as the Big Bang Theory of the universe expanding from a single event.
And there, you’d certainly think, the connection between the two ends. But you’d be wrong, because staff at The Henry have organized a big party on May 18 — tomorrow, that is — to celebrate the gallery’s 80th birthday, and they’re calling it the Big Bang Birthday Bash.
“We’re really excited about the 2007 bash,” said Betsey Brock, the gallery’s associate director for outreach and communications. “The Henry throws the bash every other year and it continues to evolve in new ways. The committee of Seattle artists that collaborates to choose the theme, decorate and plan the event has been great fun to work with this year. I can’t wait to see how it all turns out!”
About 200 artists have donated their work to the bash, Brock said. She said the call for donations prompted about 360 responses in all, the first 200 of which were chosen.
The artists’ donated work will be available for purchase at the Astral Art Sale, at down-to-Earth prices ($100 to $300), hosted by auctioneer Laura Michalek.
Henry staff also kept an intergalactic theme in mind when planning a universe of events for patrons and guests attending the party, which will be from 8 p.m. to midnight. Tickets for the event start at $50 for members, here called Henry Superstars, and $65 for nonmembers, or Comets. “Pulsar Patron” tickets cost $150, and include admission to the patron preview from 6 to 8 p.m. where the contributing artists also will gather.
All tickets include food, cocktails, beer and wine, and entertainment. (There’s also a class of ticket called “Supernova,” priced at $1,927, which, should you wonder, includes one work of art and patron preview admission for two.)
Entertainment will range from the cosmic to the cartoonish. DJ Riz Rollins of KEXP will spin tunes in what for the evening has been termed the Alien Landscape Sculpture Court. Sara Rudinoff, Nick Garrison and special guests Sissyfist will perform, press notes promise, “space ballads, robot songs and interplanetary odes” in a tented area of the gallery’s loading dock.
The Vis a Vis Society, a two-woman collective (Drs. Ink and Owning, they are called) offering “poetic analysis of the everyday,” also will perform. Press notes advise, “In this science-ridden, interactive performance and installation, the doctors will collect your most personal celestial information, drop it into their chemistry sets, project their findings and calculate their research for their 9:30 performance,” in the South Gallery on the lower level.
A group called On the Double (Dutch), which calls itself “an athletic response to Seattle arts community” (at last!) will perform the double-dutch rope jumping it has become known for. And excellent local cartoonist Ellen Forney will be in the South Gallery Lounge — for now the Lunar Lounge — ready to draw portraits on cocktail napkins. An iPhoto Booth also will be on hand and visitors can create their own intergalactic photo and e-mail to themselves at home.
The Henry Art Gallery was founded in 1927 after Horace C. Henry, who was born in 1844 and was a veteran not only of the Civil War but of the Battle of Gettysburg (and of Pickett’s Charge, no less), donated his vast collection of art so that it would not be broken up. With the art, he also donated the money for a building to house the art, but did not require that the pieces in his collection forever remain on view. “He was a model patron,” longtime Henry Director Richard Andrews (who is stepping down in February) told writer Regina Hackett for a story in Artguide. “He was generous to begin with and modest about his involvement afterward.”
The gallery, boasting Henry’s collection, opened its doors on Feb. 27, 1927, with both Horace Henry and Henry Suzzallo, then president of the UW, present. It was a milestone personally for Henry, who died the next year, and for the world of art.
To read an entertaining blog about the history of the gallery by Katie Tiehen, go to http://hankblog.wordpress.com/author/katelarue/. To read an excellent history of the Henry and its founder by Tom Griffin, editor of the Alumni Association’s Columns magazine, visit online at www.UWalum.com/columns, click on the archives and look for the “Our Back Pages” feature in the June 2002 issue.