By Chris S. Nishiwaki
NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY
Bettie Luke, sister of the late Seattle City Councilmember and namesake of the Wing Luke Museum, looked up as the museum’s board of directors co-president Jill Nishi welcomed its supporters on the evening of March 13 to its dinner and auction at the Sheraton Grand Seattle. She was reminded of her brother.
Luke recalled when Nishi, crowned Miss Seafair in 1989, refused to join the Seafair Parade float with a court filled with white women dressed in kimonos, in protest of the ignorant cultural appropriation.
“I was tickled to see (Nishi) there,” Luke told the Northwest Asian Weekly two days after the event. “Her protest reminded me of the type of thinking that Wing had, going back as early as in high school. Wing was such a leader in the community. At Roosevelt High School, he was student body president during the war. It reminded me that Jill has been a leader since a young age. To see her up there , it brought it full circle.”
The March 13 auction was also the first in-person gala since 2019. The combined virtual and in-person gala at the Sheraton Grand Seattle raised over $500,000. Attendance was limited to 350 mostly masked guests to encourage social distancing and safety protocols—the day after the state lifted the mask mandate. Another 45 guests tuned in online.
The fundraising total was the second highest in the museum’s history, surpassed only by the over $600,000 raised in 2019. The total included lead “Fund Our Need” gifts of $25,000 apiece from board co-president Ellen Ferguson and board member Paul Mar.
Gerard Tsutakawa’s fabricated bronze sculpture “SeaWave,” a scale model of his commission outside of Climate Pledge Arena, was the highest grossing auction lot, hammering at $11,000. The winning bidder was Sounders FC Director of Operations Peter Tomozawa.
The gala was the first without Marge Young and Bob Luke, Bettie and Wing’s siblings, who passed away in 2019 and 2020, respectively. Ruby Luke, the only other of Wing Luke’s siblings alive, attended with Bettie.
“It was sad not to have the three sisters together,” Bettie said. “I know that (Marge) would have totally enjoyed seeing what transpired that night.”
The remaining sisters and the museum continue Wing Luke’s legacy, who was the first Asian American to be elected to public office in Washington state.
“I am absolutely amazed that for over 50 years, the museum has carried on the two most critical parts of Wing’s legacy—cultural preservation and social justice,” Bettie said. “I am impressed. It is bold for an institution to take that stance, to ensure the API community has a chance to hear their voices.
“Wing would have been very proud to see the work that has been done over the years. Not just the work but the people that also are still very strongly associated with the museum.”
Luke also envisions continued success for The Wing and its new executive director Joël Barraquiel Tan, who attended the fête.
“The fact that he has already been involved with social justice is a delightful plus,” Luke said, pointing to Barraquiel Tan’s experience in creating and implementing award-winning civic engagement DEI initiatives, while at San Francisco’s Yerba Buena Center for the Arts.
Barraquiel Tan plans to continue Wing Luke’s social justice legacy.
“It was my first real post-pandemic event,” Barraquiel Tan said of the gala. “It couldn’t have been more celebratory or glorious. I am still processing it. The gala is when all of the generations and different stewards of The Wing converge. Who wouldn’t want to be welcomed into a community as tight-nit as this?”
Chris can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.