One of the best ways to get to know a town is through their art and Bellingham and Whatcom County are home to hundreds of artists. From sculptors to painters, photographers and potters, there are so many ways to appreciate the visual arts. One of the best ways to take it all in is by bringing the whole family on an art walk. Luckily, you can catch one at least twice a month all year long in our area.
Local artists display their work inside local businesses and theaters, allowing visitors to stroll by for a look, free of charge. Visitors can appreciate the art, check out the business and often meet a small business owner or two.
Art walks are so much more than the art too. Venues often offer demonstrations by the local artists along with live music, performances and a range of free refreshments.
Part of my appreciation of art is learning about the techniques used. I love talking with the artists about what inspired their work, how they learned their technique and the fascinating stories behind each piece.
Whether its metal work, watercolor, pottery or blown glass, there is a little something for every taste on your stroll. Art Walks are also the perfect activity before or after dinner or paired with a show or nightcap.
Art walks also make great family activities. When my sons were little, they got some exercise while I got to feel like a grown-up, and having snacks at each venue helped keep them moving forward. Now that they’re teens, they have opinions about the work and I’m thankful for (and sometimes surprised by) the conversations we have about art, culture, politics and whatever tangent the art inspires.
Downtown Art Walk
Hosted by the Downtown Bellingham Partnership, Downtown Bellingham’s Art Walk happens on the first Friday of every month and is the perfect way to start your Friday night and kick off the weekend. Enjoy and explore local galleries, studios, museums, shops and restaurants that showcase the creative talent of the area.
Clustered together in the downtown Bellingham Arts District and adjacent areas, this art walk is fun and well-attended by locals and visitors alike. Business owners get into it, offering something different each month. That means even if you went two months in a row, you’d likely not see the same works or eat the same treat twice.
You’ll have the chance to enter drawings and raffles, grab the occasional piece of swag and perhaps find the perfect piece for your mantle or office.
I often park along Railroad or in the Commercial Street parking garage since they are in the center of town. Walking from there is easy and also takes you past a number of savory restaurants and pubs like Brandywine Kitchen, Uisce Irish Pub and Chuckanut Bay Distillery.
The art walk map is updated each month as venues are added, but there are usually sandwich boards to guide you. Some venues offer printed copies of the map near the entrance or register.
Get to know the vibrant heart of downtown Bellingham through its museums, galleries, studios, businesses, restaurants and breweries.
Fairhaven Art Walk
Fairhaven Fourth Friday Art Walk in Historic Fairhaven is a product of a partnership by Whatcom Art Market and Historic Fairhaven Association and is hosted on the fourth Friday of every month. It occurs on the fourth Friday of each month year round, except in December, from 5 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. in more than a dozen businesses in historic Fairhaven. The up-scale businesses are clustered within a block or two of Harris Avenue for easy walking. Parking is free on the surrounding streets.
There are new works each month and new venues are added regularly. They conveniently update the map and artists each month so it’s easy to plan your evening. There are also a number of restaurants with great food and atmosphere n Fairhaven so plan to have dinner before or after your stroll.
I like to have margaritas with my gal pals at one of the Mexican restaurants on Harris Avenue or dinner at the Black Cat afterward, located on the 3rd floor of the old world Sycamore Square building. I also get drawn in by the cute shops themselves. I usually walk away from the shops near Historic Harris Avenue like Current and Furbish with a gift for a girlfriend or a new book club option from Village Books.
In the months with more evening light, I also enjoy the view between Art Walk venues. You can usually catch the sun setting over Bellingham Bay easily from a sidewalk in Fairhaven. The greenways trail connects Fairhaven with Taylor Street Dock making an afternoon or evening walk an easy option.
Annual Children’s Art Walk
Hilary Parker has written a great Insider Blog about art walking with children. When my kids were younger I often took them to the Annual Children’s Art Walk on the first Friday in May, hosted by Allied Arts of Whatcom County since 2000. It proudly showcases the work of hundreds of Whatcom County students in local businesses and galleries. The works remain up throughout the month of May in honor of the statewide Arts Education Month.
The inaugural evening of the Art Walk includes exciting events at multiple venues and performances by the students. Lots of kid-friendly treats are offered at venues too.
I believe that if children see the artwork of other children, they will not only gain inspiration, but they’ll also have more confidence and perhaps judge their own work less. My kids always went home with at least two new techniques they wanted to try. In my book, that is a huge success for a family outing.
No matter what kind of art you appreciate, there will be something that catches your eye during the year-round art walks in Bellingham and Whatcom County. The family-friendly, free events are a great way to get to know the area better, whether you’re visiting for the day, a weekend or more. Even long-time locals like me will discover something new and captivating while supporting the creativity of hundreds of local artists that call this place their home.
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