Despite the event cancellations of Washington State’s Stay Home Stay Healthy order, Bellingham and Whatcom County arts organizations found creative ways to stay connected to the community that are continuing into the future. Together, representatives from more than 30 organizations came together to form the Whatcom Arts Project. Daily Facebook and Instagram posts allow the public to stay connected to their favorite arts organizations while also discovering new ones, all safely and conveniently from home.
Whether you’re in the mood for an independent film, a music or dance performance, a new book suggestion, a writing prompt or a new art activity to try at home with the kids, Whatcom Arts Project has something to entertain, challenge or inspire each member of your household.
Art Lessons and Performances for School Students
If you’ve been searching for ideas that will keep your kids busy or activities to expand your middle or high schoolers horizons, Whatcom Arts Project has something planned every day of the week.
Each weekday at 8 a.m. posts are directed toward elementary school-aged children. Content for middle and high schoolers (and beyond) rolls out around 10 a.m.
Mondays are for music. Around 8 a.m. each week Bellingham Symphony Orchestra shares a performance or tutorial designed for elementary-school-aged children. Their informative videos teach kids about a variety of instruments, composers, pieces of music and even how to conduct. Their Learn at Home page provides additional resources and past activities to help your kids explore further.
A post might share a piece of classical music and ask kids to listen for instruments they hear. Historical information about the piece can be shared by parents with younger children or read by older kids. Families are encouraged to paint or draw while they listen and discuss what the music inspires in them.
Around 10 a.m. on Mondays, Jazz Center of Bellingham shares a free video lesson for middle or high school students who cannot practice with their band teacher at school. Each lesson focuses on a specific skill, such as improvisation, interpreting a melody or practicing reaction and interaction.
Tuesdays are for the visual arts. A number of organizations share these time slots. Allied Arts of Whatcom County might share a guided art project video or tutorial that will enable you to try a new technique with household items or learn techniques from one of their 100+ member artists.
Whatcom Museum has shared virtual tours of their exhibitions led by curators. You’ll learn about the artists, their specific works and what inspired them.
Janson Art Center in Lynden shares artist’s studio tours and their techniques. From drawing, to watercolor, to sculpture, you can learn from professional artists and art instructors and try copying some of their techniques at home.
Western Washington University’s (WWU) Western Gallery presents gallery and campus tours and descriptions highlighting their broad collection of gallery and outdoor art (some of which you can visit in person). They’ll often suggest creative writing or drawing prompts to help you internalize what you see and express what the art brings up within you. They might ask you to think of what you would title a sculpture or suggest that you use materials at home to experiment with color or form as the artist has.
Wednesdays are wild! The WWU Theatre and Dance Department presents dance and movement performance videos of their students and activities that encourage elementary and middle schoolers to think about the feelings and emotions the dance performances project. Is it empathy? Fear? Frustration? Then kids are encouraged to express themselves through movement and dance at home.
Middle and high schoolers will appreciate Wild Wednesdays with a weekly writing or art prompt. Writing prompts are presented by organizers of the Chuckanut Writer’s Conference held at Whatcom Community College and Village Books each June (this year online). Prompts are usually based on a piece of writing shared via video and then students are encouraged to free write on a related topic as it connects to their own life.
Art prompts are presented by artists of the Whatcom Art Guild. Students are encouraged to try a style, such as abstract or photorealism, along with a prompt accessible from home, like nature or a pet. Young artists have the option of submitting their creation to the Guild via email along with a description of their work or process so the Guild can present the works on their Facebook page.
Thursdays are for Theater. Bellingham Arts Academy for Youth (BAAY) presents archived all ages video of whimsical musical dance performances past. Links to full performances might include original works written and produced by the students or you might see some of your Broadway musical favorites like The Snow Queen or a pixie performance of The Stinky Cheese Man.
Mount Baker Theatre has been sharing their fascinating Behind the Curtain series of videos that explains the many moving parts that make a production happen. Students can learn about theater jobs, vocabulary, technology and the history behind this community treasure.
Fridays are for fun! A number of organizations share this day to engage, entertain and inform kids (and adults) of all ages. You might see WWU sharing video discussions of its outdoor art collection, more Behind the Scenes with Mount Baker Theatre, interviews with women film directors and short films courtesy of CASCADIA International Women’s Film Festival, and archived and quarantine performances from WWU College of Fine and Performing Arts. Shu-ling Hergenhahn-Zhao of Sylvia Center recently presented an informative behind the scenes video about how fake blood is used for stage work.
Although these educational posts are limited to weekdays, because they are posts, children of all ages can access them at their convenience anytime via Facebook and Instagram. Many organizations have also created web pages to make the content easily accessible so check with the individual organizations for a look at what you might have missed. Then choose what most interests you.
Remember when you could go to the movies, or a concert, or hear an author reading? You still can. Whatcom Arts Project has scheduled an interesting event activity for every night of the week. We often prepare a special meal and then have “Date Night” at home. Here’s some of what you might expect.
Each Monday night Bellingham Film presents a “Locally-Made Movie of the Week” beginning at 4:30 p.m. They showcase a different short film or web series that was made or filmed in Whatcom or Skagit County, along with information about the cast and crew and how to support these artists during this unusual time. You can show your support just by watching. More views help the filmmaker’s reputation and credibility. If you like what you see, share it with your friends. You’ll be surprised by the quality local filmmakers can achieve and you may just see your favorite Bellingham and Whatcom County locations in the background.
Mt. Baker Ski area is a prominent character in Sam Giffin’s Kodak Courage, about the risks professional skiers (and filmmakers) take to get the perfect shot.
Tuesday evenings offer a weekly book recommendation video presented by Village Books and Chuckanut Writers Conference. You’ll also find a weekly dance performance presented by Kuntz and Company.
Each Wednesday night Pickford Film Center presents opportunities to see the fabulous independent films they are known for online for free or for a fee that will help keep their doors open. You’ll also have a chance to see archived and from-home performances by musicians from Jazz Center of Bellingham.
Thursday nights are shared. Music lovers will appreciate Live at the Piano Lounge with Lynden’s Jansen Art Center, presenting different musicians and musical groups performing from home each week with a wide range of genres from singer/songwriter to blues to rock. Bellingham Theatre Guild will also be sharing a look behind the scenes of community theater each week.
Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights include date night and family entertainment from more than ten different organizations. You’ll find film, theatre and music performances. On Sunday afternoons Whatcom READS presents archived book talks with visiting authors like Timothy Egan’s Big Burn and Cheryl Strayed’s Wild. Bellingham Symphony Orchestra (BSO) also presents Classical Hour with a variety of classical music content from performances to podcast discussions with musicians, composers and BSO staff.
Watch for Special Events
CASCADIA International Women’s Film Festival and Pickford’s Bellingham Music Film Festival recently hosted this year’s festivals online in May. In the coming months, many other groups and organizations will shift what would normally be in-person events to an online platform so that you will not miss out.
Whatcom Arts Project is a wonderful way to stay on top of the innovative ways the Bellingham and Whatcom arts community will continue to connect, educate and entertain. Check regularly for the very latest.
Opportunities to Support the Arts in Bellingham and Whatcom County
Beginning in late June 2020, the group will begin a We HEART CommUNITY fundraising campaign presenting opportunities to support the arts in Whatcom County. That will include the chance to purchase a tote bag, more details will be rolled out via the website and social media.
The Whatcom Museum has also developed a way that you could help document history in action, creatively. Community members of all ages are invited to share their quarantine stories in the Story Dome project. Share your quarantine experience, a poem, or a short story.
The creation of Whatcom Arts Project is the silver lining of Whatcom County’s response to the COVID-19 Pandemic. All of the members agree that they’ll continue their concerted efforts long after our county opens up again. Together, they will work to champion the arts—and each other.