The Bellevue Arts Museum traces its roots back to street fair art in 1947. After several temporary locations, it moved to the third floor of Bellevue Square, a large shopping center in the center of downtown Bellevue, Washington in 1983. In 2001 the museum finally moved into its own building.
Located just across the street from Bellevue Square, the distinctive new building was designed by noted architect Steven Holl. It is seen by many residents of Bellevue as playing a role in the transformation of the downtown from series of suburban strip malls to a sophisticated city with a variety of cultural attractions.
The museum subsequently ran into financial difficulties and was forced to close to the public in 2003. After a lengthy fund raising campaign, extensive interior remodeling, a slight change in name and a new focus on crafts and design, the museum re-opened on June 18, 2005 with an exhibition of teapots.
In contrast to conventional art museums, Bellevue Arts Museum has no permanent collection. Rather, it emphasizes education and hands-on involvement through an extensive selection of classes and workshops