You can get to know a lot about a community by the art being produced within it. Bellingham and Whatcom County host a complex, vibrant arts scene that includes a wide array, from the performing arts and poetry to the vastness of the visual arts. Here are just a sampling of the galleries, museums, guilds, events and markets in region that offer opportunities to appreciate of the work of local visual artists.
Since 1964, this non-profit organization is the oldest continually-operating group in Whatcom County. The work of their more than 100 members can be found across two permanent venues—Whatcom Art Market and Village Books in Fairhaven—and at multiple partnering businesses at different times throughout the year.
For over 37 years, Allied Arts has fostered and supported the local arts scene through community events involving visual artists and musicians, its sponsorship of exhibits and programs focused on local artists, its extensive arts education in local schools and its public advocacy for the arts. The 501(c)3 non-profit is currently developing and increasing collaborative relationships with local and regional organizations serving Whatcom County.
You can see the work of more than 100 members in the eight juried shows they present in their Cornwall Avenue gallery, during First Friday Art Walks and at the nine other events they host each year including their marine heritage-focused event during Bellingham SeaFeast. Perhaps their largest each year is their Holiday Festival of the Arts.
With 110 members, Whatcom Weavers Guild was organized in 1971 to promote community interest and education in textiles, and communication among fiber artists, with an emphasis on weaving. Their Fibers and Beyond event each October showcases the work of members. It will include exhibits at the Jansen Art Center in Lynden, WA for the months of September, October, and November, a guild sale, a keynote speaker, and several workshops during October. They also participate in The Wool Show at the Northwest Washington Fair each year.
An artists collective made up of more than 45 members of Whatcom Art Guild, WAM is run at a permanent Fairhaven location by its members. Goods available for purchase include the creations of area painters, photographers, craftspeople, jewelry-makers, glass and metal-workers and most anything you can imagine. An excellent stop to find the perfect gift all year long, the market is full of unique pieces you’ll find no where else.
Their weekly featured artist events showcase the work of a specific artist, offer hands-on demonstrations, treats and occasionally live music. Bellingham-based Kenneth Kearney of Kenneth Kearney Photography joined WAM in 2017 as another way to share his wildlife, landscape, and other nature photography. Kearney appreciates that a local cooperative exists to support the many different mediums and styles within our community.
Local, family-owned Apple Yarns has built and supported a community of knitters, crocheters, and dyers who have created sumptuous, one-of-a-kind pieces and used their fiber arts skills to reach out and give big to the local community, across the US, and even to other countries around the world. The store’s focus is to sustain the knitting and crocheting community while hosting a number of classes ranging from smaller groups for beginners up to larger, advanced workshops taught by out-of-town experts.
Local fiber artists love their many Social Circles. The one drawing the most attention is the Wednesday group, whose central focus over the past three years has become the local 501(c)3 breast cancer survivor charity, Knitted Knockers. Led by breast cancer survivor and group member, Barb Demorest, this group’s mission is to connect volunteer knitters who make knitted breast prostheses for breast cancer survivors who have undergone a mastectomy. Survivors receive the prosthetic that is just right for them, free of charge.
Voted among the Top Ten Farmer’s Markets in the Pacific Northwest, Bellingham has two hopping, functional locations , including an array of hand made goods like textiles, pottery, jewelry and other gifts. Combined they support over 140 local artisans, farmers, food producers and service providers.
Located at Depot Market Square, the downtown market occurs on Saturday’s April through December from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. plus the Early Season Market on the third Saturday of each month in January, February and March. The market has been supporting local artisans and sustainable, local agriculture since 1992.
The Fairhaven Wednesday Market is held on the Village Green in historic Fairhaven June through August from noon to 5 p.m.
The Commercial Street Night Market, hosted by the Downtown Bellingham Partnership, is the perfect way to kick off a weekend and get to know the people of Bellingham. With local food and artisans vendors, music and live performances in a relaxed, outdoor setting, these six pop-up events will fill your evenings with fun, 6 to 10 p.m. on the third Friday of the month May through September. (May 19, June 16, July 21, Aug. 18, and Sept. 15, 2017).
First Friday Art Walk in Downtown Bellingham
Located in the Downtown Bellingham Arts District on the first Friday of each month, from 6 to 10 p.m., all year long, First Friday Art Walk features galleries, studios, museums, shops, and restaurants that showcase the creative talent found in Bellingham’s growing art scene. Its host, the Downtown Bellingham Partnership, ensures that each event is festive and unique. Most venues appear on a monthly map and all are within walking distance of one another.
Traditionally limited to just once or twice a year around the holidays and as Summer Solstice Art Walk, Art Walk in Fairhaven will expand beginning in July 2017 to become a monthly event thanks to the idea inspired by local artist Rick Bulman. The new art walk series is a product of a partnership by Whatcom Art Market and Historic Fairhaven Association. It will occur on the fourth Friday of each month year round, except in December, from 5 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. in more than a dozen businesses in historic Fairhaven.
This year, students from Fairhaven Middle School art classes will compete to have their art on the posters advertising the monthly events.
Galleries and Museums
Bellingham and Whatcom County have a number of private galleries and public museums that share a combination of nationally touring and locally produced art work. Each hosts museum exhibits, gallery tours, and other events throughout the year. Bellingham Whatcom County Tourism maintains this list of some of the many that are available. You can also read about other visual arts in my Insider Blog series that includes area museums, film festivals, theatre and other events.
With so many opportunities to view and purchase the wide variety of work by area visual artists, its easy to plan a long weekend or week-long trip to Whatcom County around our local art. Whether you’d like to meet the artists themselves, participate in hands-on activities, find pieces to decorate your home or gifts for family and friends, or inspire your own creations, Bellingham and Whatcom County’s visual arts scene has something for everyone to appreciate.