The Wing: The Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

When I travel I like to check out the city’s great museums and galleries.  But I also like to check out those off the beaten path ones that inspire some educated growth.

I found the The Wing in downtown Seattle that would make a great fit for my travel adventures.

The Wing is a 60,000 square foot facility which offers three floors of stories, with contemporary galleries showcasing both temporary and permanent exhibitions.

The Wing tells the story of Seattle’s Chinatown-International District. While economically challenged, it is a historically and culturally vibrant area. The Wing sees themselves as a neighborhood concierge and an economic anchor for the nearby small businesses. From restaurants to statues that you might not otherwise notice, there are layers of history and significance that are waiting to be uncovered.  The Wing offers guided neighborhood tours and events that will encourage you to discover stories and tastes both on- and off-the-beaten path.

Why The Wing?

The story behind the namesake of the The Wing is one we can all relate to regardless of our ethnicity.

The Wing is named after Wing Luke.   He was a Chinese American boy who dreaded going to school. He was tired of being bullied for being different, for being Asian. One day, he decided he couldn’t put up with it anymore. He had to stand up to them, to fight back somehow. So he decided to try his pen – and he drew funny comic strips. Before long, his classmates wanted to read them, and he became popular, eventually elected class president at Roosevelt High School in Seattle.

Son of a laundryman and grocer and an immigrant from China, Wing Luke went on to become one of nine high school students to consult for a White House conference on youth issues, earn a Bronze Star Medal for his Army service during WWII, receive a law degree from the University of Washington, and be appointed Assistant Attorney General for Washington State.

In 1962, Wing Luke made history, elected as the first person of color on the Seattle City Council and the first Asian American elected to public office in the Pacific Northwest. His unique combination of politics, compassion and advocacy of diverse communities made him a powerful force for equal housing, urban revival and historic preservation of Pike Place Market, Pioneer Square and the Seattle Waterfront. Wing was a trailblazer of his time.

In 1965, his promising career was tragically cut short when a small plane he was riding crashed in the Cascade Mountains. He died at the age of forty. Despite the short tenure of his career, Wing inspired many. In his memory, the community created the Wing Luke Memorial Foundation and eventually built a pan-Asian museum based on his vision. The first version of the Museum opened its doors on May 17, 1967 in a humble storefront at 414 8th Ave South in the Chinatown-International District. Several decades later, the Museum continues to be an important place where the Asian Pacific American community looks to for engagement, inspiration and leadership – a legacy that Wing Luke left to Seattle.


My visit to The Wing was an emotional one.  The space was beautifully curated and solemn.  I appreciated that the exhibits had a nice balance between exhibits of historical relevance for Asian Americans and also exhibits that speak to a younger generation to wet their appetites towards future relationships with the museum.

I felt inspired by the ‘In Struggle Asian American Acts of Resistance’ exhibition.  It tells the story of how Asian Americans who have defied the “quiet” stereotypes and courageously stood up to injustice – as individual resisters or as part of organized movements for social change. From 19th century railroad strikes and laundrymen’s lawsuits to Japanese American resistance to their incarceration during WWII, from student sit-ins in the ’70s to ongoing anti-deportation protests, the tradition of Asian American resistance inspires each of us to recognize and confront injustice every day.

Indeed politically charged but an exhibit that will draw tears of pride.  We need to recognize that our blessings of today required sacrifice from those who came before us.  This exhibit does an excellent job of tipping its hat to those special folk while also giving a point of reference to inspire us to continue in promoting their message.

The ‘Art in Motion – The Evolution of Board Culture’ speaks to those Asian Pacific Islander Americans who have a long history in the boarding community, from 20th century pioneer surfer Duke Kahanamoku to skateboarder Wally Inouye. This multimedia exhibition examines the development and modern-day evolution of boarding culture.

I thought this was such a fun, lively and interactive exhibit.  Probably my favourites of everything I had seen in Seattle to date.  The photography displayed in the exhibit reminded me of something out of Thrasher magazine.  Stunning, raw and dynamic!  Kids, teens and hey adults too will appreciate the gorgeous artistry in the skateboards on display and ramp in the main exhibition space.  Fantastic!

I appreciate Wing Luke’s name on such an amazing space that is The Wing.  It is important to recognize that there are those who overcame to bring us such joy in art, politics, acceptance and inclusivity in countries like the U.S., Canada and abroad.

The Wing

719 South King Street (between 7th and 8th Avenue South)

Seattle, WA  98104

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s