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Local arts philanthropist Bagley Wright dies at 87

July 20th, 2011 by Thea

One of the most notable patrons and philanthropists of the Queen Anne and greater Seattle arts community, Bagley Wright, died at the age of 87 after suffering a heart attack on Monday night, according to a report by The Seattle Times.

Bagley and Virginia Wright at a “Capote” party in Seattle, 1966. Photo credit: Photo by Dave Potts, Courtesy of the SeattlePI Collection, MOHAI.

Wright moved to Seattle in 1956 with his wife Virginia Bloedel, whose family owned a successful Northwest timber business, and quickly got to work developing what have since become some of the city’s greatest artistic institutions. At the time Seattle’s arts scene was regarded as ‘cultural backwater,’ the Times writes, and Wright took it upon himself to change that. “He understood that a great city had to have great cultural institutions,” his son Charlie Wright told the Times.

And change it he did. The influential philanthropist and developer founded the Seattle Repertory Theatre here in Queen Anne, helped transform the Seattle Art Museum (where his son Charlie now sits as chairman of the board) from a boutique gallery in Volunteer Park to a downtown destination, and had a hand in building the Space Needle, undoubtedly the city’s most iconic landmark. The Wrights were also the first major investors in Benaroya Hall.

“He really planted the first seeds of a vibrant cultural life in Seattle that we all take for granted now,” local arts consultant Susan Trapnell told the Times. “He’s really been an essential donor and supporter of almost every major arts organization in the city.”

From the Times:

In addition to his wife, Mr. Wright is survived by his brother, Dan Wright, of Greenwich, Conn.; sons Charlie Wright, of Seattle and Bing Wright, of New York City; daughters Merrill Wright, of Seattle, and Robin Wright, of San Francisco; as well as 10 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

“We have a great family, thanks to him, and it’s a great comfort. We did have a good time together. Nobody was better company than Bagley. I’ll miss him no end,” Mrs. Wright told the Times.

A memorial service for Wright will be held on Tuesday, July 26 at 3 p.m. at St. Mark’s Cathedral in Capitol Hill. In lieu of flowers, the family has suggested contributions be made to the Seattle Art Museum, Seattle Repertory Theatre or the Bloedel Reserve in Wright’s memory.

Read the full story in The Seattle Times.

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