TAM accepts major gift from Dwyer family

Works by NW artists part of collection of Vasiliki and late husband, Bill Dwyer

Tacoma Art Museum has received a major promised gift from Seattle art collector Vasiliki Dwyer on behalf of her family and late husband William Dwyer, whose work as a federal judge had broad impact in the Pacific Northwest. The gift includes 23 works by important Northwest artists, and significant funding for the care and interpretation of the collection.

Dromara, 1996, by Julie Speidel. Credit: Tacoma Art Museum / Speidel Studio.
Dromara, 1996, by Julie Speidel. Credit: Tacoma Art Museum / Speidel Studio.

The museum’s board of trustees accepted the promised gift on Tuesday, June 28.

“We are exceedingly grateful for the extraordinary gift of the Dwyer collection,” said Stephanie Stebich, Executive Director of Tacoma Art Museum. Stebich praised the gift as a beneficial contribution to TAM, the City of Tacoma, and the broader arts community. “TAM’s remarkable collection has been built largely through transformative gifts like this one. The Dwyer’s gift joins major recent contributions from the Benaroya family, the Haub family, Dale Chihuly, Paul Marioni, and Anne Gould Hauberg.”

The Vasiliki and William Dwyer Collection is the second large-scale bequest of Northwestern art and funds from prominent Seattle art collectors to TAM since January. Among the works are paintings by notable artists such as William Acheff, Kenneth Callahan, Richard Gilkey, William Ivey, Leo Kenney, Frank Okada, and Ambrose Patterson; sculptures by Julie Speidel and Margaret Ford; a key collage by Paul Horiuchi; mixed media by John Franklin Koenig and Wesley Wehr; encaustic by Joseph Goldberg; and photography by Johsel Namkung.

Born in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, Vasiliki has been a lifelong learner and arts lover who studied art history, drawing, and watercolor. William and Vasiliki met while attending the University of Washington law school. The couple made Seattle their longtime home base, and filled a large home with art, music, and the joys of rearing three children. When the time came to downsize, they sold and made gifts of many works of art. “I kept my Northwest collection because many of these artists were great friends,” Vasiliki said.

A Washington native, William grew up in Seattle and practiced as a prominent trial  lawyer there for more than three decades, building a reputation for intelligence, humility, compassion, and fairness. In 1976, he was hired by the State of Washington in a lawsuit responding to the abrupt departure of Seattle’s American League baseball team; the settlement led to baseball awarding Seattle a franchise that would become the Seattle Mariners.

He served the public as a federal judge for 15 years, leaving a noteworthy legacy. In 1991, he ruled against government issued logging permits on public land, saving hundreds of thousands of acres of ancient forests and supporting endangered species such as the Northern spotted owl.

— Tacoma Art Museum