Seaport Exhibits

Tacoma-This is Your Waterfront!

The Seaport's Museum is a place where stories are told with artifacts from our permanent collection and on extended loan. Some of our permanent exhibits include sharing the stories of Puget Sound's Mosquito Fleet, A Maritime Lego Display, Numerous Classic Boats, and A new train exhibit entitled Rails to Sails.

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The Puyallup People: First on the Waterway

Opening Early 2018!

The Foss Waterway Seaport presents an all new exhibit exploring the history of the Puyallup People and their intimate connection to the Salish Sea and the Puyallup River.



Untitled by Shon Frostad. Mixed media on wood panel

47° North, 122° West

Monday, October 9 - Friday, January 19

Foss Waterway Seaport is pleased to present 47 º North, 122 º West, an exhibition of paintings by Shon Frostad, October 9, 2017 through January 19, 2018. The sea, and the language of universal symbols created to navigate its vastness, are the subject of this show. Picture a shipping vessel at sea: on its side is a system of letters and numbers which can be decoded at a distance by maritime operators. For the uninitiated, these cryptic symbols remain unknown; Frostad enlarges their mystery in mixed-media canvases whose layered and textured surfaces appear aged by the effects of time, weather and salt-water submersion.


“The symbols on the ship's hull indicate such things as a vessel's 'draft', or depth in the water, what the allowable draft is for that vessel depending on the season, and even the particular ocean the ship may be traveling in,” says Frostad. “One circular symbol indicates the insurer of the vessel; another where a tugboat may or may not contact the ship's hull. Yet others show where a ship's inner bulkheads or compartments are.” These symbols describe the anatomy and other important aspects of a particular vessel. The works in this show are brushed on large (up to 4'x4') wood panels, made to echo the weathered skin of a container ship. “This body of work gives a close-up view of the aging process of steel-hulled marine vessels resulting from time, sun, salt and the living sea.”


Frostad is a Washington native, “Raised in the 'inland empire' of eastern Washington, where one isn’t exposed to the marine world. Growing up, however, I frequently visited family in the Puget Sound area and loved the sea, the ocean, and this cool, wet environment that was so much different from my home.”


He has also lived in Japan and on the island of Kauai, environments that have influenced his painting. Now based in Tacoma, “I’m inspired by the way that the light, water and sky of the Northwest act together in changing color tones and intensities. My color palette is derived from the light-affected colors found in the natural world, as well as the man-made objects within it that are constantly transforming through the organic processes of rusting and decay.”


The title of this show, 47 º North, 122 º West refers to the geographic coordinates for Tacoma, Washington. But Frostad's semi-abstract paintings might also be located on a broader metaphysical map, one where humans forever seek to identify their bearings on the sea of place, chance and history. -Lisa Kinoshita


47 º North, 122 º West by Shon Frostad, October 9, 2017 through January 19, 2018 at Foss Waterway Seaport, 705 Dock St., Tacoma, WA 98402.

Event Poster

Watercolor on the Waterfront

Sunday, November 5 - Monday, January 1

Maritime works from Urban Sketchers - Darsie Beck & Ken Fulton

Darsie Beck is a working artist, author, teacher and personal space designer living on Vashon Island, Washington. His passions are journal keeping, writing, painting, stone carving and travel journal sketching. Darsie authored Discovering Your Essential nature, The Art of Journaling to Greater Awareness and Personal Fulfillment, a workbook describing his long practiced morning centering ritual of writing-drawing as active meditation- now in its third edition. For the past eleven years, Darsie has taught creativity and travel journal sketching workshops at Waterworks Studio, the home and studio he shares with his artist wife Christine. He has taught travel journal sketching workshops at Rick Steves Europe Through the Back Door in Edmonds, Washington, The Port Townsend School of Maritime Art and Wooden Boat Foundation, the King County Library and the Wooden Boat Foundation. See more about Darsie at

Ken Fulton is a Vashon Island based artist who has been actively painting water colors for 35 years. He also works in pencil and pen ink, often melding the different media into a single image. In the last few years he has been working in wood and soapstone. He finds that working in 3 dimensional sculpture is cathartic and refreshing and adds to how he perceives his subject matter. The Pacific Northwest has been his favorite source of inspiration for much of his work. He continues to experiment with his work. Often drawing or painting a similar scene many times at different times of the day or season. “Each project becomes an adventure, for me.” Ken is an avid boater and fisherman. The water scenes and the natural world continue to inspire him.

Learn more about Urban Sketchers Tacoma!

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Fishing the Sound

Fishing, in both sport and instustrial forms, has played an impotant role in the economy and lifestyle of Puget Sound.  Tacoma is the home of many shipbuilders who manufactured fishing vessels of all sizes.  Come and see models of commercial vessels manufactured by Martinac on the Thea Foss Wateray as well as smaller locally made boats for sport fishing.  This exhibit includes an incredible collection of vintage fishing lures and equipment on loan to the Seaport. 

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Willits Canoes

The Willits brothers, Earl and Floyd, built canoes in their Day Island factory on the west side of Tacoma.  They manufactured canoes spanning many decades, beginning in 1908 and concluding in 1967 with over 900 examples built.  Also in this exhibit is a one-of-a-kind 20-foot launch, built in 1929 by the brothers.  Learn about this local story of a cottage industry that produced products highly sought after by canoe enthusiasts.

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Vintage Scuba Exhibition

The Vintage Scuba exhibit is a colaboration between the Seaport's maritime museum and Flashback Scuba Museum.  This exhibit showcases early scuba equipment from the 1950s and 1960s.  This exhibit includes how breathing devices work, model of an early wood diving bell, breating tanks, and hard-helmet diving gear.  There are models of Jacques Cousteau's famous underwater exploration vessel Calypso, which was built locally in Puget Sound at the Ballard Ship Yard.  One of these models visitors can climb aboard!  Children will enjoy the coloring activities of underwater scenes and finding characters from "Finding Nemo" hidden throughout the exhibit. 

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Mosquito Fleet

The Mosquito Fleet was a name given to the steam ferries that once crossed the "Liquid Highway" of Puget Sound during the decades spanning the turn of the 20th Century.  Before the era of paved highways the preferred mode of transportaton between waterfront communities in Puget Sound was by ship.  This exhibit showcases many of the nameboards recovered from Mosquito Fleet vessesl prior to their demolition after retirement.  Large ships wheels from the steamships Iroquois and City of Bremerton are on display.  Many handcrafted models of steamships may be viewed, along with an eight-foot long model of the Tacoma. This exhibit will delight anyone with an interest in steam ferries!

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An Ocean Transformed

An Ocean Transformed - art with a message, is an educational exhibit featuring marine debris sculptures designed and built by Sherman Elementary School (Tacoma Public Schools) students from as part of 2015 Seaport education pilot program. The five amazing sculptures invoke strong visual messages and are sure to encourage best practices in everyone who views these wonderful art pieces. Plan to visit the Seaport to see the exhibit, read the students' journals, enjoy the students’ creativity and take to heart the messages they impart! To enhance this exhibit we also have a 32-foot plastic whale on display. Learn more about the pilot program.

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Balfour Dock Building Exhibit

Our building is the last remaining intact section of a continuous heavy timber frame warehouse that defined Tacoma’s waterfront for almost a century. The Balfour Dock Building Exhibit is a key exhibit in our permanent collection. The exhibit showcases the history of our building complete with a piece of the heavy timber truss that supported the original wharf. Learn more about our building's history while viewing this amazing structure.

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Boats for all Occasions

See our wonderful collection of classic recreational boats in an exhibit called "Boats for all Occasions," which includes original Andrew Foss rowboats; Willits canoes: Faith, our Columbia gillnetter outfitted for youth boater education; hand-built small craft for cruising local waterways, and impeccably restored Poulsbo boats. Also included are a number of models from the Mosquito Fleet era.

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Boat Shop

Our active Heritage Wooden Boat Shop allows Seaport volunteer boatbuilders to celebrate and preserve traditional maritime construction and craft.
Our boat shop provides:

  • The chance for our guests to observe restoration and/or new construction work on Thursdays & Saturdays when our Boat Shop is open.
  • A showcase for traditional maritime crafts and construction skills
  • Workshops by master boat builders who are part of the Seaport volunteer boat building team
  • Copies of historic vessels for the Seaport’s boat livery to be offered as rentals in the future
  • Opportunities to learn about restoring and maintaining boats and maritime artifacts

Volunteer opportunities in our Boat Shop are available for people at all skill levels. Click here.