One of my favorite ways to appreciate music and art is at an outdoor festival. Luckily, Whatcom County has a natural outdoor venue designed for just that purpose. Lookout Arts Quarry located south of Bellingham on Old Highway 99 N is an arts collective that produces and hosts new creative, culturally-diverse works of all disciplines through their summer festivals, artist residencies and events. From May through September, you can appreciate music, dance, and the healing arts out in the wild for a day or a long weekend at a variety of events.
If you’re looking to escape into the wild and immerse yourself in an artists community, this is the place. This is not a typical concert venue. Most who attend camp in a tent and spend their days in workshops or exploring and connecting with others. Many evenings include music and dance performances late into the night (and for some events, into the early morning).
About Lookout Arts Quarry
The Lookout Arts Quarry operated as an industrial rock quarry for 36 years. In 2007, a group of artists took ownership of its 61 acres to create a true arts collective. Their goal is to steward the health and biodiversity of the land while providing an educational and professional destination for artists and festival gatherings. Since then, they’ve steadily improved the property by creating a nature preserve, planting fruit trees and developing art-focused event infrastructure.
In addition to hosting a variety of art-based events, Lookout also hosts an artist residency. Their communal warehouse includes a rent-subsidized room that is reserved for artists that can apply for a limited stay to produce a specific project. Each residency culminates with a showing of work such as a performance, a workshop, a publication, pop-up, and many other forms of exhibition. Artists in residence benefit from the use of the collective’s facilities including a 1,000-square-foot movement studio, communal music studio yurt, community kitchen, outdoor stages, and wood and metal workshops.
Most events take advantage of their three outdoor stages, campsites, and the outdoor festival kitchen. Be aware that facilities are charmingly rustic. The site uses composting toilets and is conscientious about recycling.
Lookout also has a lake with a floating dock for endless swimming fun and dancing at night, a wild west saloon, a pirate ship, rocks and art installations and opportunities to slack- and zip-line during a festival.
Although I can’t list all of their intriguing events here, I’ve summarized a few to give you an idea of what to expect. Check their website for a full, updated list of events.
BAMF! – Bellingham Arts and Music Fest May 12 – 13, 2018, from noon to noon
Now in its second year, this all-night festival was founded in 2017 as a senior project by two Western Washington University Fairhaven College students, Olas Perpich and Monica Griffin who have since graduated. Their passion for event and music production shines through in this untamed festival all about celebrating area artists. With the help of other students, volunteers, and up-and-coming event planners, this 24-hour party is a great way to meet area artists. More than 50 musical and comedy acts perform during the 24-hour festival and more than 750 were in attendance last year. A variety of workshops are also offered so that you can practice your art and learn as well. You’ll meet interactive sculpture artists and circus performers and can stay up all night at the silent disco and share your vocals with Love and Rockets Karaoke with Esme.
Happy Solstice! We hope everyone is enjoying the summer and we're so glad many of you chose to welcome spring with us at BAMF! 2017. Special thanks to The Nook Collective for creating this awesome recap of our springtime festival, and to club mage and Metsä for their incredible music!
Posted by Bellingham Arts & Music Fest on Wednesday, June 21, 2017
This festival is wild fun around the clock for those that are 18+. Minors may attend but must be accompanied by their guardian at all times. Your tickets include a camping spot. Plan to bring boots, camping and outdoor gear because May at the Quarry can be muddy with that spring evening chill. Parking fees aren’t included in your tickets but to encourage carpooling and alternative transportation, they offer the “Clown Car Discount,” free parking for any vehicle that has every seat filled by a passenger. They’re also encouraging “Bike to BAMF!” which is about a 1.5-hour ride from the Bellingham area.
Any extra funds raised during the event goes right back into the arts community through local arts coalitions.
Flow State Summit July 27-28, 2018
Flow State Summit is about cultivating an experience, creating meaningful connections and embodying flow in all aspects. From camping in the woods, community breakfasts at the outdoor kitchen, morning yoga jams on the floating dock, workshops all day transitioning to ecstatic dance parties by night, you will be moved. You’ll also find skillshares, cirque and live music performances and more at this festival of health and wellness.
Meet new friends and find your center at this first annual summit. Your ticket includes a prep-course to get you in the right state of mind for the summit.
Northwest AcroYoga Campout August 9 – 12, 2018
This event offers three days of AcroYoga. Combining partner acrobatics, Thai massage, and yoga, participants learn to work together and trust your body and your partners. The event includes multiple workshops at all levels each day. Kids and families are welcome and your ticket includes all workshops, camping, and organic vegetarian meals.
Northwest Recess in August
If recess was your favorite subject in school, you’ll enjoy this break from the ordinary. Like many of the events at Lookout, this festival is a place where you can find connection and beauty through dance, participatory culture and play. It is a big draw for Bellingham’s circus community. The days are filled with swimming and cliff-jumping in the flooded quarry and hiking in acres of surrounding national forest. The nights are filled with dancing in the circus warehouse, the Recess Bus, as well as the legendary floating dance floor that Recess helped custom build four years ago. You’ll also enjoy their “usual hallmarks of Recess: artistically-driven parties with Fusion and Blues music bumping until well past sunrise and a radically inclusive ethic that can’t help but inspire.”
Sh’Bang Festival of Ideas, September 7 – 9, 2018
This all-inclusive electric festival is now in its 11th year. Performances by more than 50 live bands, more than 30 circus and other performances across five stages will keep you and the family entertained. The variety is endless with hands-on workshops, art installations, aerialists, puppet-making, burlesque cabaret, and parades to name just a few.
This festival includes a Kids Creative Zone in the Harmonious Hollow. Numerous kid-focused activities keep the creativity flowing and wildly entertained. The rules and expectations of festival goers are well laid out and focus on inviting everyone to have an excellent time. The festival runs Friday through Sunday night with a morning check out time on Monday.
Play at Circus Campout. Photo by Eric Parthum.
Circus Campout August 23 – 26, 2018
Circus Campout is a gathering of circus artists, professionals and hobbyists, who gather for three days of workshops, shows and play. Attendees are encouraged to share their skills and performances. With over 40 workshops to choose from, you could learn handstands, dance trapeze, acro-yoga, juggling, fire-breathing, street-performing, loud whistling, knife-throwing, and more.
Cascadia Skillshare and Barter Faire September 14-16, 2018
Skillsharing is about teaching and learning all kinds of useful, handy, and practical skills. Those skills used to be handed down from generation to generation or via apprenticeship. The goals of the Faire are to foster self-reliance by reviving those lost skills, showcase some new ones, and provide a place where everyone can learn from folks in the community with experience in these crafts and trades. The event is inclusive and diverse.
The “Barter” portion of the Faire is to allow folks to trade items (think handcrafted, homemade, wild harvested, self-cultivated, tools, building materials/supplies).
Hourly and on-going skillshares via presentations, workshops, and classes are planned around musical performances, swimming, dancing and fun. Food vendors and a beer garden add more fun to this laid-back family-friendly adventure.
Whether you’re looking for an all-night dance party or a relaxing retreat, Lookout Arts Quarry has an event for you. You’ll find and connect with the community at this rustic outdoor venue dedicated entirely to the arts and the Pacific Northwest environment.
Lookout Arts Quarry
246 Old Highway 99N
Bellingham, WA 98229