If your head is still spinning with how fast life has changed since late February, you are not alone. We’re all making changes to keep ourselves and others safe from exposure to Covid-19, the coronavirus, and that includes the local artists, musicians, theaters, museums, galleries and filmmakers that rely on public events to share their work.
To help you make the most of your time during Washington’s Stay Home order, we’ve put together this list of the creative ways businesses, nonprofits and other organizations are adapting to our “new normal” to entertain and educate you at home.
Even while taking advantage of these creative (and mostly free opportunities), please do everything in your power to comply with local public health department recommendations. Check frequently for changes as they are evolving daily.
Tip: Check out our “Travel Advisory” for the latest coronavirus updates relating to Whatcom County and Washington State
Books and Views
If you’ve ever felt like you don’t have enough time to read, you may be secretly enjoying the recent change of pace. Because its spring and the weather is improving, many are taking a good book and getting outside. Here are suggestions on how to get books (and some movies too) and how to find the best spots to spend some time in the sunshine while you learn, cope or escape, depending on your current reading preference.
Despite closing on March 16, the Bellingham Public Library system is providing some services to existing cardholders. Librarians are still available via telephone and email services and online services continue including loan of digital materials such as eBooks, eAudiobooks, eMagazines, online newspapers, streaming movies and research tools for online learning. I’m most excited to check out their eFilms and eDocumentaries.
Our local independent bookstore, Village Books has been catering to the reading needs of our community since 1980. Their Bellingham and Lynden locations are adapting to allow patrons safe access by offering in-store pick-up, local delivery and curbside pick up. For just 99 cents, you can get all the books you buy delivered to your home (in 98225, 98226, 98228, and Sudden Valley zip codes).
Not sure what to read? Village Books staff offer a personalized recommendation via an online questionnaire to help you discover a book you’ll love! I tried the questionnaire. It’s simple. You answer a couple of questions and list a few of your favorite fiction and non-fiction books you’ve loved before and a Village Books staff emails you a list of books they think you might enjoy. Each book is linked for easy browsing and purchase, in a variety of formats including audio and digital books, paperback and hardcover.
I filled out the questionnaire saying I liked memoirs and historical fiction and non and that I wanted to get sucked into a book I couldn’t put down. Based on my past favorite books, Rachel at Village Books suggested I check out City of Theives, Caraval, Washington Black and Born a Crime.
Many read as an escape and right now, perhaps you just need to get sucked into something that will give your brain and spirit a break from the fear and the unknown future. My book club enjoyed several books in the last few years that we just couldn’t put down. They pull you in to other times or locations with unique characters and personalities. Check out The Monkey Wrench Gang, A Gentleman in Moscow, News of the World, Anthill, Night Circus, A Visit from the Goon Squad and All the Light We Cannot See. If you love series, try the Divergent or Hunger Games series that have also been made into films.
But where should you go to read? I like to enjoy outdoor sculptures, especially the hidden gem that is Big Rock Garden Park for quiet reading time, if it is possible to stay 6 feet apart from others.
Luckily, there are several online resources to help you choose the perfect outdoor spot. Bellingham’s Recreation Northwest’s Parkscriptions Program has established a detailed, searchable database of local, regional and state parks accessible for free through Whatcom ParkFinder. You can filter to find the park that is perfect for your individual needs. The filters include things like distance from your house, accessibility, kid- and dog-friendly amenities and more so that you can explore a new park with confidence.
Travel Tip: The City of Ferndale has closed the parks and playgrounds it operates in response to the novel coronavirus pandemic. Bellingham Parks and Recreation has kept most of its outdoor parks open, but closed all playgrounds, sports courts and fenced dog areas. Click HERE to learn more. Whatcom County Parks are open, but many facilities are closed. Washington State Parks are closed. Mt. Baker – Snoqualmie National Forest has closed trailheads and facilities.
Dance Like No One is Watching (Because They Aren’t)
This is the perfect time to appreciate your old favorites or explore some new music. Lucky for us, Bellingham and Whatcom County musicians are generously sharing their music online to lift spirits and find new audiences!
Lead vocalist and guitar Ben Gibbard of Death Cab for Cutie, who is originally from Bellingham, is offering a daily concert from his home studio at 4 p.m. PST.
Bellingham singer/songwriters Evan Ingalls, Havilah Rand and Brittany Collins Band are also posting free video performances on Facebook either daily or weekly. Western Washington University Alumni Madelynne Nore of Instar Studios will soon begin streaming live performances via Facebook under the moniker BE Home Live: A Resilient Community Network.
At Home Film Festival
During this time at home, my family and I have been watching some classics, catching up on new releases and exploring new genres from our living room. In addition to your usual methods of finding films you love to binge, here are some free or by donation options that local filmmakers are organizing for your viewing pleasure!
If you’re on the Pickford Film Center email list you’ll get a weekly message that includes links to content you can view from home while the theater is closed. Last week they forwarded links to New Native Cinema that was planned in theaters throughout March.
Also included were archived films as well as suggestions for quality, independent films to stream from home or to rent from Bellingham’s favorite video store, Film Is Truth. In addition, Pickford’s local film showcase, The Storyteller’s Seasonal will begin sharing past content on their Facebook page.
Bellingham’s horror film festival, Bleedingham will be using its social media accounts to stream and share a wide variety of short horror films from their festivals over the past nine years. Look for watch parties with filmmakers and live Q & A after some films. They’ll also be sharing curated content from local filmmakers.
Beginning in April you can also watch for the newly formed Couch-a-thon Film Extravaganza that will function as an independent live stream fundraiser to support Washington State Filmmakers who have been impacted by the closure of film festivals and film shoots across the state. They’ll offer weekly and eventually nightly streaming of content produced in Washington State, which will include some films produced here in Whatcom County.
Explore Art and History at Your Own Pace
With kids out of school, many are seeking opportunities to continue education and learning from home. Others are already feeling the loss of trips to the museum or theater and dance performances. A range of resources are available online and Whatcom County is no exception. Some had options already in place before the pandemic while others have stepped up to share content with learners young and old.
Allied Arts of Whatcom County has curated some Art Education at Home that parents can do with their parents. The lessons were developed by local artists and are multi-disciplinary incorporating science, movement and history.
Whatcom Museum has several virtual exhibits that present works of art and historic photography with descriptions for each piece. You can explore at your own pace and dive deeper into a subject on your own if you feel inspired. I was excited to explore their exhibits on Northwest Women Artists from 1880-2010 and Mt. Baker Marathon: Inspiration for Ski to Sea. Whatcom Museum also has Teacher Resources for many of their exhibits that parents’ can explore and an activity page made specifically for kids!
You’ll also find new and interesting content each week on the Whatcom Museum blog.
If you love Art Walks, you can still experience a Virtual Art Walk hosted by Downtown Bellingham. Beginning April 3, from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m, the public can scroll through posts with the hashtag #virtualbhamartwalk on Facebook and Instagram to shop for art and products available for purchase from local makers and retailers. Purchases can be made directly with the artist through their preferred platform or on the retailer’s websites.
A new campaign is forming now, Whatcom Art Project with more than 30 Bellingham and Whatcom County nonprofits and organizations. The campaign will offer interactive tours, classes, videos, narratives, performances and other arts experiences, all online and accessible. Artists, musicians, and performers are coming together to create a community that preserves the arts by partaking in them from home, visually connecting the various art sites throughout Whatcom County to allow us all to continue in connection and engagement. While apart, we can still be engaged and connected.
You’ll have free and regular access to a variety of content to satisfy your thirst for the arts while you’re at home. Check out our Whatcom Art Project page to see what they have planned and scheduled!
Even though universities and many businesses are closed, you can still explore the outdoor art collections in several locations in Bellingham. At your own pace and with social distancing in mind, you can use your phone to access information about art collections on the Western Washington University campus, in Big Rock Garden Park and on downtown Bellingham sidewalks. The pieces vary widely in scale, medium and meaning. Your family can get time outside while also discussing and learning about the art that beautifies and enhances these public spaces.
Tip: Learn about “Gretchen Leggitt – Bellingham Muralist and Street Artist.”
Bellingham and Whatcom County artists, musicians, filmmakers and performers and the theaters, museums and arts organizations are eager to stay connected during this time of social distancing. Be sure to incorporate the arts and entertainment into your daily routine with these free or low-cost online resources. They’ll keep your mood light, help you use your time positively and keep us all connected, safe and healthy as we navigate the changing times together.