If you’ve ever been disappointed about not being able to touch the exhibits in a museum or art gallery, Mindport is for you. This eclectic interactive science and art gallery in downtown Bellingham, WA is an extravaganza of original hands-on art found nowhere else. Not just for kids, Mindport encourages the curious and the young at heart of any age to explore with all their senses while also offering a unique aesthetic.
This affordable, accessible bonanza encourages visitors to touch, observe, reflect, question, reason, communicate and play with each exhibit. Their goal is to stimulate curiosity, conversation and connection through art and hands-on exhibits that integrate art and science, mind and body, stillness and movement. My inquisitive teens have enjoyed our yearly visits there since they were in kindergarten.
The Sonoluce responds visually to the sounds you create.
Mindport was founded in 1995 by three Lummi Islanders, each with diverse backgrounds in electrical and computer engineering, marine biology, woodworking and photography. One of those three remains heavily involved as Mindport Director, Kevin Jones.
Over the years, the interactive gallery has remained privately funded with a paid staff that includes Exhibits Managers and Art and Education Directors. Together with creations by past employees and volunteers, Mindport presents a rare amalgam of art and science that visitors can explore and appreciate fully on their own time and terms.
On a Mission of Exploration
Mindport’s exhibits are accessible because they work hard to keep the admission price incredibly affordable at just $3. Many of the staff have been with the organization for many years, some starting as students, meaning that the exhibits have been made with love and been well cared for.
They hope that the more than 10,000 annual visitors enjoy the gallery but also continue to explore their own creative impulses and the wonders of the physical world in their every day lives. They believe that art and science are merely different aspects of the whole–art being as fully a legitimate and important a perspective on reality as science. So many of their exhibits combine the beauty and miracle of physics and nature with art. Mindport reflects their view that art and science are two ways of putting the world together in our minds, both of them necessary for wholeness–of the individual and of society.
Visitors are encouraged to play with the marble pump that combines ingenuity, fine woodworking, physics and art.
Explore the Exhibits
Most or all of the exhibits are hand made, many from repurposed materials, by the employees and volunteers (past and present) of Mindport, including several by Mindport Director Kevin Jones. Their makers want you to touch and explore them. Many of the ideas are original, while some have been borrowed or modified.
While other larger cities have museums focused on science exploration, few emphasize the artistic aesthetic in the way Mindport’s exhibits focus. Lots of thought, time, patience and skill has been poured into each piece. Many visitors marvel at how a single exhibit may accomplish a simple task in an ingenious and complex way. If you ever played the game Mouse Trap as a kid, you’ll be reminded that there are many different ways to accomplish a single task. Mindport exhibits accomplish them with beauty, style and ingenuity while also making you think about physics, engineering and art.
You can create original songs on a one-of-a-kind musical instrument made with beautifully carved wooden cogs and sprockets or an electronic interface while studying exactly how each sound is made. Its like seeing how and why the insides of a piano or typewriter works, except with instruments and contraptions no one has ever seen before.
Fine Art & Mindport Library
Throughout the space you’ll find many pieces of fine art. Individual pieces of drawing, photography, painting and sculpture are intermingled with hands-on art exhibits. Occasionally, one corner will present a collection of pieces by a Mindport employee or visiting community artist. Much of the art in the gallery has some connection to nature, society, education or our environment.
Thanks to Artistic Director AnMorgan Curry, those fine art pieces as well as the overall aesthetic of the space change regularly meaning each visit is a new and engaging experience. More detailed information about gallery works is also shared on the Mindport blog.
In the first week of each December, Mindport hosts an exhibition of new works created by Western Washington University Industrial Design students. As a group, they develop and create a product that incorporates design and manufacturing. They educate the public on their process and sell their creations that have included bowls made from repurposed materials, 3-D printed jewelry and a uniquely designed bottle opener.
Occasionally the space will also host live music by local musicians. But when you need a quiet moment, Mindport also keeps a small library of its favorite books for you to sit and peruse. The subjects vary and often are connected to the content of the exhibits.
The gallery is perfect for anyone who appreciates the marvels of the modern world, the curious who must know how things work and the creative who appreciate cleverness for its own sake. Because the very affordable admission and central location, Mindport is an ideal stop for the whole family to explore for an hour or a full afternoon. The range of exhibits and fine art that will challenge and intrigue visitors of any age, from a toddler to the most astute.
Wed.-Fri. Noon-6 p.m.
Sat. 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
Sun. Noon-4 p.m.