A generous, important gift to TAM, South Sound

The local art community should be grateful that Erivan and Helga Haub love two things: Western art and Tacoma. Those two loves are dovetailing in spectacular fashion, thanks to the couple’s generosity.

The art world sat up and took notice when the Tacoma Art Museum announced that the Haubs – a German couple who split their time between Germany and the Tacoma area – are donating their important 280-piece Western art collection to TAM.

The Haubs are also giving money to fund an endowment and help build a 15,000-square-foot wing south of the existing building – doubling the museum’s gallery space. The $15 million project, which will involve some fund-raising by TAM, is scheduled to open in spring of 2014.

The Haubs obviously knew what they were doing as they amassed their collection of paintings and sculptures, considered one of the best of its kind in the world. All the big names in Western art are there: Frederic Remington, Charles Russell, Georgia O’Keeffe, Albert Bierstadt and top modern artists working in the genre as well.

According to a Wall Street Journal article about the announcement, the “gem” of the collection is Thomas Moran’s oil painting, “Green River, Wyoming” (pictured). That work, and many others that are coming to the new TAM wing, capture the high romance of the Western landscape that entranced so many European and East Coast artists in the 19th and 20th centuries. Other works depict the people who inhabited the West: Native Americans, cowboys, soldiers and settlers.

Tacoma already is carving a niche for itself as a museum town, home to the Museum of Glass, the Washington State History Museum, the Foss Waterway Seaport, the Karpeles Manuscript Museum and, most recently, the LeMay-America’s Car Museum.

TAM recently acquired the 400-piece glass collection of Paul Marioni, a founder of the studio-glass movement, because he respects the museum’s commitment to Northwest art. The Haub donation expands that focus, promises to enhance the museum’s reputation and will certainly increase the number of visitors coming to Tacoma.

The community owes the Haubs a heartfelt “Danke schn.” Their gift will have long-lasting significance for the region.