Monday, November 6th, 2017
Explore Allied Arts of Whatcom County All Year Long
Lorraine Wilde

Allied Arts Whatcom County Art Festival Bellingham Tourism holiday 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.

Allied Arts Whatcom County Art Festival Bellingham Tourism holiday

Over 100 local artists booths can be visited at the Holiday Festival of the Arts in November and December.

Arts Education

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.

Allied Arts Whatcom County Art Festival Bellingham Tourism holiday

Teaching artist Andy Koch introduces students to balloon animals.

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.

Allied Arts Whatcom County Art Festival Bellingham Tourism holiday

Allied Arts Reuse Thrift Store (AARTS) accepts donations of unwanted art supplies and then sells them affordably to artists and the public. Many are also donated or sold at a reduced rate to schools and community organizations.

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.

Community Engagement

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.

Allied Arts Whatcom County Art Festival Bellingham Tourism holiday

Visitors contribute to community art projects during the Downtown Bellingham First Friday Art Walk.

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.

Allied Arts Whatcom County Art Festival Bellingham Tourism holiday

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.

Allied Arts Whatcom County Art Festival Bellingham Tourism holiday

Local music groups make the Holiday Festival of the Arts festive on the weekends.

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

In partnership with the Port of Bellingham, Allied Arts coordinated Bellingham SeaFeast art booths with the work of more than 30 artists to showcase the resources of our working waterfront.

Allied Arts Whatcom County Art Festival Bellingham Tourism holiday

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 Whatcom County Art Festival Bellingham Tourism holiday

Nonprofit organizations also have booths and demonstrations at the Holiday Festival of the Arts, including these ponies from Animals as Natural Therapy.

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.

Allied Arts of Whatcom County
1418 Cornwall Ave., Bellingham, WA 98225
360-676-8548
www.alliedarts.org

For more about the arts in Bellingham, see our Museums and Galleries page or the full list of Lorraine’s articles.

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About the Author:

Lorraine Wilde has immersed herself in so many of Whatcom County’s vibrant communities over the past 25 years. Owner and Marketing Strategist for Wilde World Communications, Lorraine has connected with locals as a writer, actor, scientist, teacher, filmmaker, singer, and mom. Lorraine has performed improv and staged works in several of Whatcom County’s theatres and she is active in the Bellingham Film community. She is also a big supporter of the local music community. When she has a spare second, its spent with her children outside on a sailboat, a trail, or exploring a new adventure.