Visual Communication Design undergraduate student work

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Anne Focke Arts Leadership Award

Submitted on November 8, 2016 - 12:15pm
Beth Sellars by SWAE Photography
Beth Sellars by SWAE Photography; courtesy of Suyama Space

The biennial Anne Focke Arts Leadership Award is offered by the School of Art + Art History + Design at the University of Washington to recognize individuals who pave the way for art, art history, and design to enliven and strengthen the community through their visionary and active leadership.

2017 Award

The School is pleased to present the 2017 Anne Focke Arts Leadership Award to Beth Sellars. Curator, artist, museum leader, teacher, and public art manager, Sellars embodies the power of arts leadership.

Sellars began her curatorial career as the Assistant Director of the Boise Art Museum in 1975 after holding various volunteer leadership roles for the museum, working as a fundraiser for the arts, and exhibiting as a practicing artist for a number of years. As her appointment at the museum morphed into a curatorial role, Sellars was prompted to gain a master’s degree in art history; during her time at the University of Idaho she worked extensively within the university gallery setting directing, teaching, and organizing novel programs. Sellars took on the curator position at the Cheney Cowles Museum in Spokane, Washington, in 1982, creating more than 120 solo and group exhibitions of regional, national, and international artists.

Sellars moved to Seattle in 1996 and began work as a curator and collections manager of the city's Portable Works Collection of over 3,000 artworks. She became a curatorial fixture of the region, organizing numerous independent exhibitions at the Center on Contemporary Art, Bumbershoot, Seafirst Gallery, Washington State Convention & Trade Center, PICA (Portland Institute for Contemporary Art), Henry Art Gallery, Open Satellite, and for a number of exhibitions of contemporary art, including most recently in 2016, Out of Sight.

What Beth Sellars may be best known for is Suyama Space, a gallery co-founded with George Suyama in 1998. Sellars organized 55 site-specific, 3-month-long installations over 19 years with an unerring commitment to presenting unique, challenging, and tenacious works by national and international artists. Much in the way that award namesake Anne Focke has sought to fill artistic vacuum with creatively designed solutions, so too has the curatorial thoughtfulness and organizational might of Sellars’ work.

An article about the award was published by Vanguard on January 18, 2017. Anne Focke published a post titled "Awards & leadership" on January 28, 2017.

2017 Event

A celebratory dinner honoring Beth Sellars and supporting the School takes place in April. Our guest speaker this year is alum Jenny Sabin (BA/BFA 1998), an artist, theorist, and scholar pushing the boundaries of architecture and science. Her studio was recently selected as winner of the MoMA PS1 2017 Young Architects Program competition.

Anne Focke Arts Leadership Award
Dinner and Celebration
University Club, UW Campus
6pm | April 29, 2017

Please note: this event is sold out. While we are delighted with this level of interest, we regret that not everyone can attend. If you would like to support the School in honor of Beth, please contact:
Merith Bennett | | 206-543-0971.


Named for Anne Focke, an alum­ who exemplifies these traits, it is a non-cash award organized by the School’s Advisory Board and other community leaders. The Anne Focke Arts Leadership Award was originally hosted by 911 Media Arts. The awardees were Anne Focke, Richard Andrews, Helen Gurvich, and Ed Marquand. 2017 will be the first year the award is offered by the School, signifying our commitment to preparing students for both professional and leadership roles.

Anne Focke received her Art History bachelor's degree from the School in 1967, making her one of the earliest graduates of this program. She is also our current Alum in Residence. Focke was the first staff person for the City of Seattle’s arts agency, first director of its public art program, and director of Bumbershoot (the city’s annual arts festival) the year it got its name. Focke freelances in the arts, philanthropy, and civil society. She has worked as an editor, writer, and researcher; a consultant and planner; nonprofit executive; organizer and start-up activist; public arts agency staffer; curator; and artist. Focke served for ten years as the first executive director of Grantmakers in the Arts and for eighteen years as co-editor of its journal, GIA Reader. She has participated in founding new enterprises including Arts Wire, an early national online network; Artist Trust, serving Washington State artists; and/or, an artist center; and Artech, a for-profit art-handling company.