Portrait of Pat Bako by Winifred Westergard. Courtesy photo

Pacific Bonsai Museum names new executive director

Pat Bako brings over 15 years of experience in the arts, administration.

Pacific Bonsai Museum’s Board of Directors has named Pat Bako (“BAY-ko”) as the museum’s new executive director, according to a Nov. 18 announcement.

Bako will take over the role beginning Jan. 3. She is replacing Kathy McCabe, who will be retiring at the end of 2021 after seven years leading the bonsai museum.

Bako comes to Pacific Bonsai Museum with over 15 years of wide-ranging experience in the arts encompassing everything from hands-on art-making to high-level arts administration.Adding the dimension of nature to the conversation around art is most compelling to her: “Connecting people to nature through living art is very special and very unique.”

“Being around the collection at Pacific Bonsai Museum, one can’t help but contemplate life and nature, and take a moment to pause and reflect,” she said.

Bako previously served as the director of development and alumni relations at Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle. Previously, she held leadership roles in the local arts community at both the Bellevue Arts Museum and Artist Trust, along with her role as an arts administrator at both the Pilchuck Glass School and Pratt Fine Arts Center.

Her personal art practice was built around glass sculpture and the Pacific Northwest glassmaking community.

“I am excited to jump into the ancient traditions of bonsai, as I did with glass, and understand how the traditions are evolving, so I can gain a bigger picture of the new history Pacific Bonsai Museum is forging for the future,” Bako said.

For her first priorities, Bako said that she wants to take time to get to know the community, including the staff, board, and other volunteers at the museum, as well as the greater bonsai community.

Then, she plans to dive into her work in preparation to create a new strategic plan for the organization. Bako also said she loves the museum’s Youth Field Trip Program and wants to increase community partnerships around them.

Bako is continuing the work of McCabe, who leaves the organization with a thriving, world-class bonsai collection among the most botanically- and aesthetically-diverse anywhere.

McCabe took the organization through a start-up phase as a new non-profit and will hand it off with a stable foundation, ready for its next stage.

As her departure draws closer, McCabe said she will miss working closely with the collection and the staff but is excited about the next chapter to be written for Pacific Bonsai Museum.

“Pat will be leading our creative and talented team to achieve even more. Together, they will widen our community circle of bonsai appreciators, and with more and different voices, will deepen the conversation around art, nature, and the human experience,” she said.

Bako’s hiring is the culmination of a six-month-long hiring process that involved a national search for a proven leader with a track record of developing partnerships and a genuine commitment to the museum’s mission to connect people to nature through living art.

“Pat is so collaborative and such a strong relationship builder, she is in a great position to lead Pacific Bonsai Museum to our ultimate goal of being the preeminent bonsai collection in the world, which is already well underway,” said Kit Severson and Grant Rauzi, board members and co-leaders of the search committee, in a statement.


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