Charles Frye was born in 1858 to German immigrants who owned a farm in Iowa. In his thirties, Frye left Iowa and moved to Seattle. After creating a successful business and getting married, Frye fell in love with the arts. With the help from his wife, Emma, Frye acquired an extensive art collection and became known as one of the most renowned art collectors in the west. Throughout this time, Frye would occasionally lend pieces of his collection to various exhibits. But, majority of the time, his collection was showcased in an exhibition building that was attached to his home. Although Frye’s home exhibition building was mainly for the pleasure of him and his family, he often hosted events and concerts in the building, which allowed the public to see his collection.
After deciding that their extensive art collection should be showcased to the general public, Charles an Emma Frye made plans for their art collection to become a museum after their deaths. Emma Frye passed away in 1934, and Charles Frye passed away six years later. After Charles passed away, Walser Sly Greathouse oversaw the creation of the Frye Art Museum and became the museum’s director.
The next monumental event for the Frye Art Museum occurred in 1994 when Richard West became the new director. West was a veteran director, as he had overseen around five museums prior to working for the Frye Art Museum. Under West’s supervision, the Frye Art Museum underwent a revitalizing renovation, which included an expansion.
When West retired in 2003, Yale-graduate Midge Bowman became the museum’s director. Under Bowman’s direction, the museum created their official archives, as well as various research project initiatives. After Bowman retired in 2009, Jo-Anne Birnie Danzker has been the Frye Art Museum’s director.
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