If immersing yourself in the local art and music of the places you visit is your thing, Make.Shift Art Space is the place to discover the talents of Bellingham and Whatcom County music and visual artists. Make.Shift is an all-ages DIY nonprofit art and music venue located in the core of Bellingham’s Downtown Arts District.
Their mission is to provide a substance-free, affordable community hub for artists and musicians of all ages. They do this through gallery showings, live music shows, an annual film festival and a local radio station. In 2016, Make.Shift hosted 69 shows and 1 very big block party, providing a stage for 296 bands for an audience of more than 4000 people. Pretty impressive for a nonprofit that relies heavily on volunteer time.
A Little Backstory
Make.Shift was formed as a nonprofit in 2008. The organization was started with the modest goal of being a support network for local bands. They were grass roots and cared about environmental impact. For a time they loaned out to local musicians a biodiesel-powered van for out of town tours and used bicycle-powered generators to power live shows and events. In 2011 they moved to their current location on Flora Street so that they could offer affordable, subsidized studio space to artists and musicians. Visitors come by for substance-free all ages concerts and monthly gallery art walks and listen to their low power community radio station, KZAX 94.9 FM live and Online.
“We want to be sure that people know that we are a drug- and alcohol-free space so that they know its a safe and welcoming place for community members of all ages. Parents feel safe letting their kids use our space,” explains Outreach Coordinator Kristen Stanovich.
Affordability is also a core value for the group. “We try to keep fees as low as possible so that its accessible,” adds Stanovich. “We often have benefit shows to raise funds for other nonprofits like Northwest Youth Services.
The music and art variety is as wide as the interests of its artists. Every dollar raised along the way gets rolled back into supporting local artists. Make.Shift is also home to Bellingham’s Local Music Library.
Make.Shift artists participate in Downtown Bellingham’s monthly Art Walks. On the first Friday of every month, downtown’s Art Walk features more than 30 galleries, studios, museums, shops, and restaurants showcasing the creative talent found in Bellingham’s growing art scene. Many of the artists displayed during the events rent affordable studio space within Make.Shift and so also give studio tours and live demonstrations to visitors.
Live All-Ages Music Shows
Make.Shift provides a stage for many younger and emerging bands and solo artists, some of which are too young to play in other music venues. Its the place to be impressed by young talent. Bellingham-based Heroes are a great example. This band of young teens rock classic covers and modern tunes. Some of these talented young musicians met each other at a Bellingham Girls Rock Camp. Make.Shift helped Heroes gain more stage experience and find a wider audience.
A band made up of high school students that first came together at Make.Shift now plays as Girl Teeth, with shows throughout the Pacific Northwest including some notable festivals.
Twice a year, Make.Shift hosts live cover shows that encourage local groups and even first timers to stretch themselves. A Spooky Cover Show occurs around Halloween each year as well as a Valentine’s Day Cover Show. These shows often have a large audience.
KZAX 94.9 FM Make.Shift Radio
Many local businesses and individuals contributed to get the equipment for Make.Shift’s low power radio station and several continue to support it. The station plays locally-created content as well as an eclectic mix of other artists. Volunteers keep the content rolling. Local creative and poet Shannon Laws, also known as Boosie Vox, produces Bellingham Art Beat, a weekly program that interviews and highlights the work of local artists of all stripes, including bands and visual and performing artists.
Bellingham Music Film Festival
Each April, Make.Shift co-sponsors the Bellingham Music Film Festival. Make.Shift played a central role in getting the festival started in April 2016. In 2015, Western Washington University (WWU) Associate Professor Kacey Morrow, a faculty member in the Design Department of the College of Fine and Performing Arts was on the Make.Shift board. While brainstorming community fundraising event opportunities that would support Make.Shift as a home for painters, printmakers, photographers, sculptors, musicians, the idea of a music film festival first came together. With the help of Make.Shift’s Jessica Harbert and Marketing Manager Lindsey Gerhard of Pickford Film Center, The Bellingham Music Film Festival was born.
“Fires” by Chrispy, a music video produced by Bellingham’s Benjamin Owens and Tad Beavers appeared in the music video portion of the 2017 Bellingham Music Film Festival.
Filmmakers from as far as Los Angeles, CA, Edmonton, Alberta, and the U.K. attended the 3-day event filled with film screenings, receptions and live music performances. The festival has strong regional representation across each event including a number of films produced by students of WWU and Seattle universities. Their goal has been to keep the festival accessible and affordable at under $25 per person for the entire weekend of activities.
Stopping by Make.Shift is the quickest way to become immersed in Bellingham and Whatcom County’s independent and emerging art and music scene. Whether you choose an art walk, a live all-ages music performance, local radio or the Belligham Music Film Festival, you’ll quickly get a feel for the area’s budding talent.
Location and Contact:
306 Flora Street
Bellingham, WA 98225