Founded 38 years ago by a group of local artists, Allied Arts of Whatcom County is an alliance of Whatcom County creatives. Their over arching goal is to meet the needs of the community while providing opportunities in the arts. For visitors, they produce and distribute the Arts and Culture Guide online and in area hotels and businesses. They also pour their energy into arts education in schools, providing education and exhibition opportunities to local artists and connecting with the community through a whole host of events and exhibitions.
I spoke with Allied Arts Executive Director Kelly Hart about the festivals, exhibits, shows, expos and other events that she and her staff accomplish each year. She’s been working with Allied Arts for more than nine years to improve existing programs while continuing to develop new ones.
At least 16 teaching artists and more than 350 volunteers and interns push in to 21 area schools throughout Whatcom County to serve more than 10,000 local youth. Most are in grades Kindergarten through 5th grade in the Allied Arts Education Project. In addition to visual arts, local artists lead workshops in dance, theater and literary arts.
Each May, Allied Arts hosts the Children’s Art Walk that shares the children’s creations throughout galleries and businesses in Bellingham’s Downtown Arts District.
Opportunities for Artists
Allied Arts supports its more than 400 Whatcom County artists through education and exhibition opportunities. Rather than teaching artists how to paint or sculpt, Allied Arts teaches them how to present, preserve and sell their work. Through Business Art Skillshare Sessions taught by professionals, Allied Arts helps artists learn and make decisions on how to transition their art from a hobby to a vocation. Most are free, open to the public and held at county libraries.
Similar presentations are also held at community organizations to support emerging artists. For example, using art supplies from the busy Allied Arts Reuse Thrift Store (AARTS) and repurposed frames donated by the Fairhaven Village Inn, Allied Arts coordinated the exhibition of drawings by a talented artist from Francis Place. This Bellingham-based organization provides affordable housing to those struggling with homelessness. The drawings have since been exhibited in Boundary Bay Brewery.
In addition, Allied Arts coordinates the exhibition of works from over 200 artists each year at its monthly exhibits in their gallery as well as in various off-site venues throughout Whatcom County.
Each of Allied Arts’ programs is accomplished through partnerships with other organizations. A community-focused program in partnership with Downtown Bellingham Partnership and the City of Bellingham, Creative Spaces, uses vacant storefronts in Bellingham’s downtown to exhibit works of art. The program supports economic and community development while also providing additional opportunities for artists to share their work.
Throughout Whatcom County, Allied Arts also sponsors community art projects, where the art piece is created collectively over time with participation from the public. For example, visitors to Allied Arts Cornwall Avenue Gallery created a new piece throughout the month of October 2017 by contributing messages of hope and peace that were incorporated into a sculpture made of hundreds of wedges of wood. The work, when final, will be installed at The Opportunity Council. Funds from the sale of each piece are funneled to Allied Arts education programs.
Allied Arts presents so many opportunities to appreciate and connect with local art, visitors can find a festival, event or exhibition any time of the year. Here’s just a little bit more about what to expect at each event.
Annual Member’s Show in February
The Annual Member’s Show is a great way to get an overview of the diversity of artwork being produced in our area. From February 2 to 24, 2018 works by more than 100 member artists will be presented at the Allied Arts Gallery on Cornwall Avenue.
Recycled Arts Resource Expo (RARE) in April
A number of Whatcom County-based artists focus their work on the use of recycled materials and sustainability. The Recycled Arts Resource Expo or RARE brings together these artists who teach techniques to repurpose materials into art as well as how to incorporate elements of environmental consciousness into art. For example, Sustainable Connections and Puget Sound Energy helped Allied Arts convert to LED for all their gallery lighting to be more energy efficient.
Children’s Art Walk in May
Each May, Allied Arts hosts the Children’s Art Walk that shares works created by the children through their education program throughout galleries and businesses in Bellingham’s Downtown Arts District. For many of the children, it is their first opportunity to display their work outside their home or classroom.
Whatcom Cultural Festival (NEW) in June
Conveniently scheduled on the same weekend as the Fairhaven Fourth Friday Art Walk, June 22 to 24, the first annual Whatcom Cultural Festival will launch this summer on the Fairhaven Village Green and surrounding businesses. Allied Arts has partnered with the Historic Fairhaven Association to host this celebration of the diverse cultures in our Whatcom County community.
Art demonstrations and exhibitions will include food, busking musicians, dance performances and art. The folk arts that are passed on from family to family will be represented including embroidery, knitting, quilting, sewing, cooking and other traditions with a deep history in our shared culture.
Bellingham SeaFeast in September
Holiday Festival of the Arts in November & December
The Annual Holiday Festival of the Arts shares the work of over 100 artists for a 5-week period. In 2017, the festival will run November 17 through December 24. This is a significant event for local artists and holiday shoppers who bought over 25,000 locally-made objects throughout last year’s festival.
Allied Arts presents so many fun, fascinating opportunities to appreciate and connect with local art and artists, visitors can find a festival, event or exhibition any day of the year. Dive in and get to know Whatcom County art and the creative folks that are sharing and defining our local culture each day.